What Is Wrong With This Picture?

PHOENIX -- Trevor Hoffman is using his early arrival at spring training this year to get adjusted to a new reality: He's not with the San Diego Padres.

After spending each of the previous 15 camps with the Padres, the career saves leader is getting to know his new teammates and surroundings with the Milwaukee Brewers.

While Hoffman is excited about the opportunity after signing a $6 million contract with the Brewers this winter, he admits he still isn't over the sting of how his long tenure with the Padres ended. He had 30 saves in 48 appearances last season with the Friars, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

"It's not that I'm disconnected from San Diego. I'm disconnected from the Padres," said Hoffman, who has 554 saves. "I'm not seeing the same people every day. I'm seeing new people. As much as that three, four months ago didn't seem as much of a reality as it is today, time keeps moving and the game moves on. It doesn't sit for anybody. You kind of have to -- like it or not -- move on with it. ... I'm still trying to get used to it."

So are the Padres.

Heath Bell, Hoffman's apparent replacement, said it's strange to look across the team's Peoria clubhouse to not find Hoffman in his corner locker.

"It's weird, but it hasn't hit me yet because there are so many guys in camp," Bell said. "It will probably hit me when we get back to Petco Park."

In November, the Padres rescinded a $4 million offer. Two months earlier, Hoffman was optimistic he would return after he and Padres general manager Kevin Towers began working privately on a deal for 2009.

The Padres' dismissal is something Hoffman hasn't quite learned to deal with.

Though the members of the Padres' front office maintained they were still hoping to speak to Hoffman after their first offer was pulled, the reliever said no such contact was made. And even though people close to Hoffman thought as late as December that he might return to San Diego, he never held out hope.

"I think it was due in fact to the way the Padres were still leaving it out there that there was that chance," Hoffman said. "I was told otherwise and what you were being told and what others in the organization were feeling was much different than the truth."

Now, Hoffman is attempting to move forward. Among the familiar faces in the Milwaukee clubhouse are ex-Padres teammate Mike Cameron and Tony Gwynn Jr., who he's known since he and Gwynn's father were teammates.

The Brewers have even informed him they'd like to continue playing AC/DC's "Hells Bells" when he enters games in save situations.

Hoffman will return to Petco Park with Milwaukee on Aug. 1-3. That gives him a four-month cushion that wouldn't have been available to the 41-year-old had he opted to pursue a job with the Padres' archrivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were also showing interest.

But because the Dodgers were still weighing their options internally, Hoffman said, he wasn't pursued as vigorously, thus allowing him to avoid an awkward situation.

"I had much more dialog with Milwaukee than I was with L.A.," Hoffman said. "The fact that it would have been the strongest rival that San Diego has probably would have added more salt to the wound both ways. It probably would have weighed on a fan base that I would have had. It would have been difficult for them, and it would have been difficult for me. Those things are hard to set aside."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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