Hoffman Right Guy to be Brewers' Closer

Trevor Hoffman has compiled a major league record 554 saves, but his four postseason appearances and veteran leadership should prove invaluable for Milwaukee's young staff and bullpen as the team hopes to reach the playoffs for a second straight season in 2009.

It was just 13 months ago that Milwaukee signed a veteran right-handed relief pitcher to a lucrative, one-year contract in hopes of filling the all-important closer's role.

General manager Doug Melvin—with owner Mark Attanasio's cash and blessing, of course—inked another one Thursday.

Fans all know how the ill-fated Eric Gagne deal worked out--$10 million, or $1 million for each save that the former Dodger and Cy Young Award winner recorded before losing his job to the since retired Salomon Torres.

Brewers brass and players are hoping that the team's latest addition—pending a physical—will turn out much better as the organization brought in all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman.

The 41-year-old San Diego Padres legend brings his Hall of Fame credentials and Hells Bells theme music to Miller Park, where faithful followers are looking for the Brewers to rock their way to the postseason again after ending a 26-year playoff drought last year.

Hoffman reportedly agreed to a pact worth $6 million plus $1.5 million worth of incentives.

Melvin and company pulled off quite a coup considering the geographical disadvantage they faced with the Dodgers being the other serious suitor for the California native's services.

Gagne was nearly 10 years younger, but Hoffman doesn't bring a checkered injury history with him like Gagne did. Hoffman's only significant health issue occurred in 2003, when he missed most of the season because of shoulder surgery.

Although he's obviously lost zip, Hoffman relies on his fastball, a changeup and experience to get opposing hitters out, and Milwaukee's banking on that combination for at least one more season.

Trevor Hoffman

It's that invaluable savvy that should benefit the Brewers' young staff the most, especially in a bullpen that also must replace the likes of Torres, Guillermo Mota and Brian Shouse.

The 6-foot, 215-pound Hoffman went 3-6 with a 3.77 earned-run average in 2008, saving 30 games in 34 chances with a 46-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 45.1 innings for a San Diego bunch that finished in the National League West cellar.

Hoffman has recorded 554 career saves in 621 total chances, with a combined 56-66 record and 2.78 ERA. He has struck out 1,055 and walked 274 in 988 innings. He became the first pitcher to reach the 500-save plateau June 6, 2007, against the Dodgers.

So, nobody knows how to handle the daily pressures that go with the position better than Hoffman, who gave up three runs in the 13th inning against Colorado as the Rockies rallied for a 9-8 victory in a playoff to decide the NL wild-card team to end the 2007 season.

The Rockies registered the winning run that day on Matt Holliday's controversial slide and play at the plate. That came just two days after Tony Gwynn Jr.'s two-out, two-strike triple against Hoffman had tied a game that Milwaukee eventually won in 11 innings, 4-3, to prevent San Diego from clinching a postseason berth and forcing the crucial showdown at Coors Field.

Closers, especially the good ones, know all about trying to exorcise those kinds of demons. Hoffman showed his class and respect for the game during an interview with USA Today in spring training last year:

"I'm not going to sugarcoat it," Hoffman said. "It was devastating. I let my entire team down. If I didn't give a f— about anybody but myself, maybe it wouldn't hurt so bad. But to know you (not) only let yourself down, but let down 24 other guys that are putting their trust in you, that's a heavy load trying to saddle. It's not just a burden I lived with all winter. It's a burden I'll live with for the rest of my life."

Now, that's the type of stand-up player and person I'd want on my team, and there's no doubt that the Milwaukee organization is glad to have him.

The other thing to note about Hoffman's personal and professional debacle against Colorado was the date—Oct. 1. Milwaukee saw its first meaningful October baseball since 1982 a year ago, while Hoffman pitched in the postseason four times with San Diego, including the 1998 World Series, accumulating a 1-2 record, 3.46 ERA and four saves in 12 playoff games. He also has worked in six All-Star contests with a 0-1 mark and 10.13 ERA.

Hoffman, the brother of former big-league player and current Padres coach Glenn Hoffman, started his big-league career with Florida after being the fourth pick of the first round in the expansion draft from the Cincinnati system. However, he was shipped to the Padres later in that 1993 campaign and remained in San Diego until a falling out this fall as he became a free agent.

He has recorded 30 or more saves every year since 1995 except for '03, when he worked only nine innings. His career-best was 53 saves in '98. Hoffman was an 11th-round selection in 1989 and hit .249 at rookie league Billings as a shortstop and batted .212 the next season before beginning 1991 at Single-A Cedar Rapids as a relief pitcher, ranking second in the Midwest League with 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings. His final year in the Reds chain ('92) was split between Double-A and Triple-A, where he started 11 times before becoming a reliever for good.

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