Reports of the ace reliever's departure may have been premature, according to a published report.
"Maybe I'm too much of an optimist. I think he can come back," Black said. "I don't think that bridge has been knocked down."
After 16 seasons as the team's heralded closing relief pitcher, Hoffman -- according to published reports -- appeared in mid-November to be at such odds with management that there as little hope of him returning for the 2009 season. The Padres' front office revoked a one-year, $4 million contract offer after details were leaked to media outlets and other teams with whom Hoffman's agent had been shopping him.
Hoffman earned $7 million over the 2008 season, when the Padres' player payroll reached about $74 million. Now, after a dismal showing, the team is understood to be aiming at $40 million in player costs for the 2009 season.
In the course of compiling a career record 554 saves and an .892 saves percentage, Hoffman -- now 41 -- has been struggling over the past two seasons, being tagged for more losses, especially in clutch-game situations.
Read MLB.com's "Padres Think Hoffman Could Return" for more details.