Padres Rumor Mill

The word on the street is the Arizona Diamondbacks are interested in free agent Rich Aurilia. That leaves a spot for a utility infielder potentially open on the San Diego Padres.

It is conceivable that the Padres could look to free agency to fill the spot or they may look internally – it is easy to come to this conclusion when Xavier Nady is working on his defense – at third base – in the Instructional League.

Or is that a sign of more than just tinkering this offseason.

After spending most of the 2004 season with Class AAA Portland because of the Padres' logjam of corner outfielders, could Xavier Nady be the Padres' third baseman of the future?

That possibility has been floating around the Padres office because Nady is in Arizona fielding grounders at third while rumors persist that San Diego will try to package 1B Phil Nevin and 3B Sean Burroughs in a trade. Nady played third in college before suffering a shoulder injury that required surgery. Nady, who turns 26 on Nov. 14, hit .247 in 77 at-bats with the Padres in 2004 with three homers and nine RBI.

Were the Padres to trade Nevin and move Nady to third, their logjam at the corner outfield spots would be gone. Ryan Klesko would move from left to first. That would leave left field to either Terrence Long or Jay Payton (if the Padres follow their late season thoughts and replace Payton in center).

Looking for a candidate to play a utility role?

J.J. Furmaniak may get a few looks. He impressed last year by taking over in Portland and did not relinquish his position. Now he is working out at second and third base in the Mexican League.

A Padres official said it was only a matter of time before Furmaniak cracks a major league lineup and he could get a few extra looks this season after hitting extremely well and playing solid defense for the Triple-A club.

On the pitching front, Andy Ashby wants to end his career as a Padre, and the Padres will offer the 37-year-old a minor league contract to vie for the No. 5 slot in the rotation or a long relief spot. Coming off last November's elbow reconstruction surgery, Ashby signed a minor league contract with the Padres late last winter and spent most of the 2004 season rehabbing. He made two late season, single-inning relief appearances before shutting it down when he experienced pain in his elbow. The pain was considered nothing more than a normal part of Tommy John rehab.

The Padres will move this offseason to sign RHP Scott Linebrink, 28, to a multiyear contract rather than go to arbitration. Working ahead of Akinori Otsuka and Trevor Hoffman, Linebrink was 7-3 this season with a 2.14 ERA in 73 appearances.

There has been talk that Linebrink could be in line to replace Hoffman when his time in San Diego as the Padres closer.

"I'd love to have a left-handed reliever," Padres GM Kevin Towers said. "I really would."

Of course the two lefties employed by the Padres this year had an ERA of 13.96.

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