All too familiar for Padres

The San Diego Padres made a familiar move on Tuesday. They signed four players to minor league deals and each got an invitation to spring training. It is similar to what they did last year with the addition of players like Tom Wilson, Brian Hunter, Gene Kingsale and Rey Ordonez, all of whom had experience playing in the Majors

The Padres signed right-handed pitchers Joe Dawley, Brian Falkenborg and Danny Patterson, and catcher Michel Hernandez. Each of the four has experience at the Major League level and it is meant to not only keep the competition going but also to provide some buffer at the Triple-A level early in the season if injuries befall the team.

Ironically, the four players signed last season were each off the team and its minor league affiliates altogether by early May.

Dawley appeared with three minor league clubs in 2004, Akron, Omaha, and Buffalo, while also making two starts for the Cleveland Indians – games the Indians won but Dawley did not figure into the decision.

Dawley, 33, went 1-2 with a 3,19 ERA in nine games for Omaha before making spot starts with the Indians. He allowed five runs over 8.2 innings and has a career 10.91 ERA at the Major League level in eight games. A strained elbow derailed much of his 2004 season.

"Dawley is one of those baseball lifers who is a good influence on teammates because of his gritty determination in the face of long odds," an American League scout said.

Falkenborg, 27, went 4-6 with a 6.17 ERA with Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League in 2004. Batters at Triple-A hit .286 off him and he surrendered 17 homers in 18 games pitched over 89 innings.

He also made six relief appearances with the Dodgers in 2004, going 1-0 with a 7.53 ERA and 11 strikeouts.

Falkenborg started the season on the 15-day DL with an injured right knee and made two rehab starts at Las Vegas before joining the big club April 24. He stayed with the Dodgers until June 8 when Hideo Nomo came off the DL, when was sent back to Las Vegas where he stayed the rest of the season.

Patterson, 33, went 0-4 with a 4.75 ERA in 37 relief appearances with the Detroit Tigers last season. He also spent time with Toledo and Memphis in the minors. During nine Major League seasons with the Rangers and Tigers, Patterson has a career record of 24-22 with nine saves and a 4.14 ERA in 350 games, all in relief.

"(Detroit) had arguably the worst bullpen in the big leagues last year, and cut him because he was so bad," one AL scout said. "He used to be a solid middle reliever, but had Tommy Johin surgery back in 2002, and seemed to struggle coming back from that. By the middle of the season, he just couldn't get anyone out."

Hernandez, 26, spent the year with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, a Triple-A affiliate of the Phillies. He hit .254 with six homers and 31 RBI's – both career highs. He has a career minor league average of .252 with 17 home runs and 174 RBI's. He has walked more than he has struck out in his last two seasons in the minors.

"He has some talent, but I wouldn't say he's the kind of guy that you want to have behind the plate for any long stretch of time," said a National League scout. "He'd be an adequate major league back-up guy though. He handles pitchers pretty well and he's not afraid to throw himself in front of balls in the dirt. Slightly above average arm, but not spectacular."

Hernandez has just four at bats at the Major League level, a five game stint with the Yankees that produced one hit.

Each faced a numbers game in San Diego and all will likely end up in Triple-A to begin the year. Patterson has the most experience and he may be the only wildcard of the bunch.

The question is whether they will last past May or whether this is a repeat of last year's crop.

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