Nevin says goodbye to San Diego

Nevin says goodbye to San Diego

SAN DIEGO -- As Phil Nevin was making the rounds in the Padres clubhouse before Friday night's game against the Reds, exchanging hugs with words of encouragement with teammates about to become ex-teammates, Ryan Klesko made a prediction Rangers fans should appreciate.

"I guarantee he'll go back to hitting 30 to 40 homers and driving in 100 runs in that ballpark," Klesko said of his partner for 5 1/2 seasons, dealt on Friday to the Rangers for pitcher Chan Ho Park.

Nevin, who rejected a deal involving Orioles pitcher Sidney Ponson on Tuesday, had a list of eight teams he could contractually dismiss. Texas, he said, was not on the list, but he maintained he was moving to the American League West with a positive attitude.

The deal was made official on Saturday morning, after it was approved by the Commisioner's office.

"I'm excited," Nevin said. "I honestly am. It's an opportunity to play in a great organization, with great people there I've known for a long time. It's over. I'm a Texas Ranger now. I intend to help them accomplish their goals."

In Park, the Padres are getting a 32-year-old right-hander familiar with Southern California and the National League West Division. Park -- 8-5 this season with a 5.66 ERA -- began his career with the Dodgers in 1994. Park is 102-77 in his career with a 4.29 ERA.

Park has lost three consecutive decisions since a June 1 win. He's considered a durable pitcher who should benefit from the vaster dimensions of PETCO Park.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound South Korean had been with the Rangers since 2002 after signing a five-year free agent contract. He makes $14 million this season and in 2006. Nevin is due $10 million in '06 on the last year of his contract and has a $2 million buyout for 2007.

Nevin, a Padres fixture since 1999 when he had a career year with 24 homers and 85 RBIs, became a fan favorite in 2000 and 2001 when he put together hugely productive back-to-back seasons: .303, 31 homers, 107 RBIs in 2000; .306, 41 homers, 126 RBIs in '01.

He struggled with injuries in '02 and 03 and had diminished production, but he bounced back last season with 26 homers and 105 RBIs while batting .289 in the debut season of PETCO Park, even with its vast dimensions.

Nevin, sidelined on June 21 for 22 games by a strained oblique muscle, has struggled since returning to the lineup in New York on July 19. He was 3-for-17 on the six-game road trip and 0-for-7 on the current homestand. He was also adapting to the rigors of catching for the first time in years with Padres teammate Ramon Hernandez sidelined by a sore left wrist that required surgery on Friday.

Nevin leaves San Diego with a .256 average, nine homers and 47 RBIs in 73 games. In his final appearance as a Padre, Nevin was thrown out of Sunday's game against the Cardinals in the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes.

"There are going to be a lot of emotions tonight when I say goodbye to my teammates and start packing to get ready to go to Toronto [to meet the Rangers]," Nevin said. "Memories? I've got a ton. This has been an unbelievable ride here.

"There's no disappointment at all. The only disappointment is we didn't accomplish what we set out to. But this team's going to accomplish it. They'll have no bigger fan around baseball than me. I'll be watching them every day. I'll watch them in the playoffs and try to help Texas make up some ground and get to the playoffs."

Asked about Padres general manager Kevin Towers, who completed the deal, Nevin said: "In the hallways, he's passed by my family the past couple days. It had to be tough on him. We've been together a long time. We're friends. Unfortunately, this is the tough side of it."

Nevin said he spoke with owner John Moores, adding, "This organization's been very special. Not many guys get to play for their hometown team. My home's an hour from here, but I've got a home here. It's been a privilege to be a San Diego Padre."

Klesko echoed those sentiments, saying, "It's been an honor and privilege to play with Phil."

Since 2000, through mostly lean years in San Diego, they were a team within a team: Klesko and Nevin, the big bashers in the heart of the order. No matter how rough the standings may have looked for the Padres, fans could count on a routine power display by the big boppers.

When Klesko heard the news that Nevin had no contractual right to veto this trade and that he was bound for Texas, he felt a sense of loss.

"Ever since I've been here," Klesko, the former Braves slugger, said, "he's been here, and we've been right next to each other in the lineup. It happens in baseball all the time. It's part of the game, whether I agree with it or not.

"Kevin Towers is a good general manager. He's done a lot of good stuff. I'm here to play the game and not comment on the merit of trades, but Phil has produced here. He's been a big bat in the lineup and a good friend."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.