Padres stockpiling lefties on the farm

The San Diego Padres recently signed left-handed pitcher Erick Burke, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies organization. They also re-signed left-handed reliever Geoffrey Jones who wanted to test the free agent waters before deciding to return. On the foreign affairs front, the team has kept their eye on one Australian prospect in hopes of luring him to the states when he is eligible.

Erick Burke split his time between Double-A and Triple-A this past year. With the Reading Phillies, the Double-A affiliate, the reliever went 3-2 with two saves and a 3.15 ERA over 40 innings of work. He held the opposition to a .218 average against, walking 12 and whiffing 47.

It was, however, lefties who hit him hard. They swatted .357 off him while right-handed hitters batted a meager .162.

Burke went on to pitch in 33.1 innings with the Scranton-Wilkes Barre Red Barons. He again was knocked around by lefties (.296) while limiting righties (.197). His walk totals also increased upon the ascension to Triple-A. He issued a free pass to 22 batters but was able to limit the damage by holding the opposition to a .158 average against with runners in scoring position.

"He has a habit of being a little inconsistent at times and can get rattled on the mound," said a Phillies scout. "Has a tendency to get wild and then his composure goes and the whole thing snowballs out of control."

A former 11th round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 1999, Burke, 28, figures into the bullpen mix in Triple-A Portland

The Padres brought back Geoffrey Jones, a left-hander they drafted in the 32nd round of the 1998 draft. Jones had reached six-year free agent status and tested the waters before re-upping with the Friars.

"This was my first time through that process so it was a little different for me," Jones explained. "I did want to go into free agency just because I have been playing for seven seasons now and I figured I owed it to myself to see what was out there and see if I could get a Big League invite. It didn't come around but my whole thing with the Padres is that is who I wanted to be with from the beginning of free agency."

Jones nearly made it through his first healthy season, but a broken hand ended his year prematurely. He had previously missed a year of action to Tommy John surgery.

Playing for Double-A Mobile, Jones logged 55 appearances, going 3-5 with a 4.37 ERA in 70 innings. It was a tale of two seasons for Jones. He struggled in the first half but held the opposition to a .193 average against in July and August.

Jones is the opposite of Burke because his specialty is getting left-handed hitters out. He held them to a .207 average against this past year.

In the foreign realm:

The Padres had interest in left-handed pitcher Steve Kent earlier this year but the Aussie native eventually signed with the Braves for $275K.

Another player of interest in Australia is Shaun Tabrett from Sudney. He is a tall, athletic right-hander with a fastball that reaches the high 80's along with a ton of movement. Other teams are looking at him as a hitter, notably the Minnesota Twins. The Padres have made several overtures to his agent in anticipation of when he can be signed. There are several clubs who will be in pursuit of Tabrett when he becomes eligible.

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