Decisions! Decisions!

That time of year is almost at hand. The San Diego Padres are set to tinker with their roster in hopes of finding that winning combination for 2005. The payroll is not expected to expand much, thus forcing decisions on a number of fronts. One of those concerns left-hander David Wells.

The Padres don't expect a quick decision from left-handed pitcher David Wells about the 2005 season.

Wells, who will turn 41 next May 20, was 12-8 with a 3.73 ERA in 31 starts for the Padres last season. The native San Diegan signed a single-season, incentive-laden contract with the Padres last Dec. 31 after the Yankees offered him only a minor league contract.

But at least three hallmark teams -- Boston, the Yankees and the Dodgers -- have expressed interest in Wells for the 2005 season.

"I think David will take some time before making his decision," said Padres general manager Kevin Towers just after the end of the season.

In the season's final weeks, Wells joked about the possibility of hearing from the Yankees again.

"George (Steinbrenner) and I know and respect each other," said Wells. "Every day is interesting with the Yankees. It's like nothing else in baseball."

A Padres official said Wells would love to hear from the Yankees if for no other reason than that it would be an ego boost. For the Yankees to come courting this winter, it would be parallel to an apology for not offering Wells a major league contract last winter. The Yankees, meantime, could view the veteran and unflappable Wells as the perfect addition to a beleaguered rotation.

While knowing that they cannot compete with the Yankees in a money battle for Wells, the Padres hope that Wells will decide to end his career in San Diego, where he is re-establishing a year-round residence.

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