Padres' Moves Slow to a Crawl...For Now

In the Oakland A's clubhouse, the lockers of catcher Ramon Hernandez and outfielder Terrence Long were side-by-side. <br><br> "That could make it easier when I join the Padres," Hernandez said Wednesday (Nov. 26) after the trade sending him and Long to San Diego for center fielder Mark Kotsay was finalized.

"I'm happy to come to San Diego," Ramon Hernandez began on his trade to the Padres. "It's exciting. Everything will be new. It's just like being a little kid. When things are new, they are happy."

But while Hernandez was expressing "excitement" about joining the Padres, he shouldn't be alarmed if Long is not in Peoria, Ariz., next February to greet him when spring training begins.

No sooner had the two-for-one been consummated -- after a weeklong delay while the A's received an outside examination of Kotsay's back -- that rumors began circulating that Long might be bound to the New York Mets along with right-handed pitcher Kevin Jarvis for outfielder Roger Cedeno.

Officially, Padres general manager Kevin Towers was sticking with his story that he is planning to go into the 2004 season with Long and Giles platooning in center with Giles, Ryan Klesko and Xavier Nady on the corners.

But Towers is also interested in freeing up money as he turns to the two other items on his winter agenda. Now that he has the catcher he wants -- and that the Padres desperately needed -- Towers wants to shore up the Padres bullpen and add a starting pitcher or two.

The trade added $750,000 to the Padres' 2004 payroll.

Freeing themselves of Long and Jarvis will eliminate $7.5 million although the Padres might have to take Roger Cedeno off the Mets' hands in return.

Although his plans were put on hold for a week as he waited out the trade with the A's -- "This is the longest trade I've ever made," said Towers, "and I was worried about our catching situation if it fell through." -- Towers wants to have his bullpen shored up by the winter meetings so that he can concentrate on starting pitching.

He has already started on the bullpen by re-signing right-handed closer Trevor Hoffman. Right-handed setup men Jay Witasick and Scott Linebrink are already in the fold.

Towers is hoping that offers to right-handed veteran Rod Beck (who was 20-for-20 in trade opportunities for the Padres last year in Hoffman's absence) and Japanese left-hander Akinori Ohtsuka will be accepted ... then go after at least one of his two left-handers -- Kevin Walker and Mike Matthews -- who are arbitration eligible. Odds are Walker will return and Matthews will not.

Then he'll turn to his wish list of starting pitchers, which is topped by Greg Maddux.

"We probably won't be the first team making offers," said Towers of the free-agent market. "But we'll be there when things start shaking out."


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