Padres fine tuning

The San Diego Padres believe they are putting together a dynasty. They failed to realize that you have to win it all before you can pave that path. But management, and vocally David Wells, believes the team is primed for many years at the top of the NL West – without expanding the budget.

Is Kevin Towers bluffing?

Or is the Padres' hand so strong -- stronger than it might have looked to the outsider -- that they can win the National League West next year with only some fine-tuning?

"I honestly feel we had the best team in the division," Towers said of the 2004 club that placed third in the NL West and six games behind the division-champion Dodgers.

So what do the Padres need to do for 2005?

Find a fifth starter. Re-sign David Wells ... or they will need to find a fourth and fifth starter. Bolster the bullpen. And rebuild the bench.

Earth-shaking moves don't seem to be in the offing. Neither do major free-agent signings. As for the No. 5 starter, right-hander Tim Stauffer, the Padres' first round pick in the 2003 draft (fourth pick overall), seems to have the inside track.

One deal the Padres will probably pursue during the winter is the possibility of trading Phil Nevin or Ryan Klesko. Both are essentially the same player in the same circumstance -- first basemen with long-term (both through the end of 2006), no-trade contracts (although some of Nevin's restrictions expire this winter). Klesko played out of position this year in left field and had an off year, power-wise, following shoulder surgery.

But Klesko could void any trade, providing there were teams interested in a "power" player coming off a nine-homer season. And while the tempestuous Nevin is probably more attractive (26 homers, 105 RBI), he could still block a trade to eight to 10 teams.

Perhaps the biggest change Towers would like to see in the Padres is mental.

The Padres' leadership -- and ownership -- is disturbed about the way some of the club's offensive leaders have not embraced their new home. Some -- most notably Nevin, Klesko and Brian Giles -- openly spoke out against the spaciousness of Petco Park, which was 411 feet to right center -- coincidentally, the power ally for Nevin, Klesko and Giles.

And they wouldn't let the subject wouldn't go away. Nevin was still grousing and pointing fingers in August.

"The ballpark isn't going anywhere ... it's not going to change," Towers said of the $474 million stadium. "It's important that we accept this as our home for a long time."

Which might secretly be the Padres' biggest desire for the offseason -- an attitude adjustment regarding the ballpark from some of the Padres' core players.

As it stands now, most of the Padres' offseason activity will focus on the bullpen and bench.

The front end of the bullpen is set with right-handed set-up relievers Scott Linebrink and Akinori Otsuka in front of right-handed closer Trevor Hoffman. The Padres probably will seek to re-sign right-handed reliever Antonio Osuna, who will be a free agent after an effective but injury-interrupted season.

The Padres began moving toward the makeover on Thursday (Oct. 7) when they paid a $250,000 buyout and released right-handed reliever Jay Witasick and outrighted right-handers Steve Watkins and Ricky Stone to Triple-A Portland.

As for the bench, Towers would like to obtain more players with double-switch capabilities. "I'd love to give (manager) Bruce (Bochy) some of the double-switch capabilities he's had in the past," said Towers.

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