Padres' Fick catches on

When the Padres refused to offer Robert Fick arbitration last winter as a free agent, Fick knew that he couldn't return to the majors until May 1 if he re-signed with the Padres.

So he shopped around. And discovered another problem.

"There were not too many Robert Fick takers out there when I was looking for a job," said Fick.

So Fick contacted the Padres with an idea that intrigued both manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Kevin Towers.

Fick asked to return to the Padres with a chance to tryout as a backup catcher as well as a first baseman, corner outfielder and proven left-handed bat off the bench.

Fick had come into pro ball as a catcher. But he had caught just three games in the major leagues since the Tigers moved him to the outfield at the end of the 2001 season.

"No. 1 on my list of things to do this season was to re-establish myself as a catcher," said Fick. "Catching is my love. It was the only position I had ever played, and they took it away from me when I was with Detroit. I knew that if I can catch, I'll never have to go back to the minors."

The Padres were more than impressed by Fick's spring efforts behind the plate ... as well as everywhere else. "I was excited to hear last winter that Fick wanted to catch," Bochy said. "And he wants to catch in the worst way. I'm comfortable with Fick back there."

So comfortable that when starter Ramon Hernandez went down with a jammed left wrist Friday night in Minnesota, Bochy elected to start the left-handed-hitting Fick the next night against the Twins with right-hander Brad Radke starting.

Fick responded by going 3-for-5 with a triple, two runs and an RBI, and he handling the pitchers to rave reviews in a 7-2 Padres victory.

"To be honest, when I found out I was starting at catcher, I felt like mission accomplished," said Fick, who raised his average to .372.

"When I talked to the Padres, one of the things I said was that I'd like to catch again if Bochy wanted to take a look at me as a catcher. I wasn't looking for a job as a catcher, just a chance to show the Padres what I could do."

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