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Notes: Outfield needs remain

Notes: Outfield needs remain

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SAN DIEGO -- It's Dec. 12. Do you know who the Padres' Opening Day center fielder will be?

To date, San Diego has addressed several of its offseason needs, such as finding a starting pitcher (Randy Wolf) and a second baseman (Tadahito Iguchi), and even surprised a few by inking National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy to a three-year contract extension worth $52 million.

What the Padres haven't been as successful with is filling their biggest offseason need: finding one or two outfielders to help kick-start a spotty offense that ranked among the worst in the NL in 2007.

The Padres thought they had a deal in place late last week with free agent Milton Bradley, but he jilted his former team by signing with the Texas Rangers.

Then, late Tuesday, the Padres learned that their multi-year offer to Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome was rebuffed when the 30-year-old agreed to a four-year, $48 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.

So now what?

First of all, general manager Kevin Towers -- speaking at Peavy's press conference on Wednesday at PETCO Park -- isn't panicking, even though his free-agent center-field options are essentially down to one player, with a few more options possibly available through trades.

"A lot of times," Towers said, "it takes time to put the puzzle together."

The Padres have continued their talks with Mike Cameron's agent, Mike Nicotera, about a two-year deal that would keep the soon-to-be 35-year-old in a Padres' uniform through 2009. But though the two sides might not have issues on the length of a deal, they're said to be far apart in terms of money.

Some clarity might have been provided on Wednesday, when free-agent outfielder Aaron Rowand agreed to a five-year deal worth $60 million ($12 million a year) with the Giants. That actually might help the Padres, who might be able to retain Cameron for a two-year deal worth about $5 million annually.

A call to Nicotera on Wednesday was not returned.

Hot Stove

And, of course, there's this: Cameron will miss the first 25 games of the regular season after testing positive for banned stimulants.

"Cameron is still in the mix," said Towers, who spoke to Nicotera on Wednesday morning. "... Center field is our main focus."

But the Padres' focus isn't singular by any means and, really, it can't be, with veteran right fielder Brian Giles coming off knee surgery. The Padres wouldn't mind signing or trading for a left fielder, even though they already have Scott Hairston as an option.

San Diego has been linked to the Pirates for the better part of two weeks, with rumors about everyone from former Padre Xavier Nady to Nate McLouth to another Padre, Jason Bay. An Internet report on Wednesday indicated that the Padres were in "deep discussions" with the Pirates regarding a potential deal for Bay.

But Towers more or less refuted that report, saying, "We have had some discussions back at the general managers' meetings. I didn't get the impression [Bay] was on the [trading] block."

The Padres have essentially no interest in trading away their top prospects, such as third baseman Chase Headley, which is what other clubs are asking for in return for outfielders. Headley will be in San Diego next month to take fly balls at PETCO Park to see if a position switch might be feasible.

The Padres might well revisit free-agent outfielder Geoff Jenkins. Jenkins' agent, Damon Lapa, said on Wednesday that he was told by the Padres at the Winter Meetings in Nashville last week that the team "said until there was a decision on Fukudome, they were hamstrung."

According to Lapa, Jenkins has one multi-year offer on the table, though he would not say with which team. He said that the lull in contract talks with the Padres allowed them to "engage in more productive talks with other clubs."

Padres non-tender Ensberg, Lane: The Padres announced late Wednesday that they did not tender contracts to third baseman Morgan Ensberg, outfielder Jason Lane, right-handed pitcher Jack Cassel and left-handed pitcher Ryan Ketchner.

Ensberg and Lane joined the Padres in the second half last season in separate trades with the Houston Astros. Neither figured prominently in the team's plans for 2008.

Cassel and Ketchner could very well sign Minor League contracts, though they won't be on the 40-man roster.

Who's on first? Renteria: As expected, the Padres named Rick Renteria their first base coach for the 2008 season. He replaces Bobby Meacham, who joined manager Joe Girardi's staff with the New York Yankees.

Renteria, who was the manager with Triple-A Portland last season, will be entering his sixth season in the Padres organization.

"I live in the San Diego area and am thankful to stay close to home and have this great opportunity to be with the Major League club," Renteria said in a statement released by the club.

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

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