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Padres make Iguchi official at second

Padres make Iguchi official at second

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SAN DIEGO -- There are things that are lost in translation and things are that unmistakably clear, no matter the language.

After being asked the same question more than once -- and in two different languages, no less -- Tadahito Iguchi, the newest member of the San Diego Padres, proclaimed his stance, once and for all, on one of the main reasons he was at PETCO Park in the first place on Tuesday.

"I'm a second baseman," Iguchi said through his interpreter, David Yamamoto. "That's the position I play. I know what I can give to that position."

So do the Padres, which is why the 33-year-old was in San Diego, wearing a smile and a Padres hat instead of sitting at a podium in a different city while wearing a different hat and talking about a contract bigger than the one he received from the Padres.

Iguchi turned down offers of more years and more money to sign a one-year contract to be the Padres' second baseman -- a $3.85 million deal that can be worth as much as $4.5 million with incentives -- simply because Iguchi wanted to be where he's the most comfortable: playing second base and for a West Coast team.

In Iguchi, the Padres get more than a capable offensive second baseman with good fundamental defensive skills. A career .276 hitter since coming over from Japan in 2005, Iguchi split the 2007 season with the White Sox and the Phillies.

It was after his trade to Philadelphia last July when Iguchi first started thinking about playing for a West Coast team to be closer to his family, which plans on living with him in San Diego. This is a one-year deal, though Iguchi is hoping it goes beyond that.

"I'm hoping I can stay in San Diego for many, many years," he said. "I'm looking at this one-year contract to do better. I didn't get to play as well as I would have liked [in 2007]. This gives me the motivation to help my team win."

He's now playing the position he's played his entire life. Several teams, including the team he ended the season with -- the Phillies -- wanted him back, but only at third base. There was a subtle inference that Iguchi's defensive skills had slipped and that he might be better off at third base.

Enter the element of pride.

"For people to tell him he's 33 and it's time to think about third base ... it's a pride thing," said Iguchi's agent, Rocky Hall. "He knows he can play second base. He's sacrificed close to $1 million to come here so that he can have that one good year that he's had in the past, to establish himself again."

Iguchi hit .304 in 45 games with the Phillies after hitting .251 with the White Sox. He ended up with a .267 batting average with nine home runs and 43 RBIs in 465 at-bats. But Iguchi and the Padres stated Tuesday that they think he can get back to the statistics he posted with the White Sox in 2005 (.278, 15 home runs, 71 RBIs) and 2006 (.281-18-67).

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"This guy, from everything I've seen, does everything very well," Padres general manager Kevin Towers said on Tuesday. "He will use all fields, hangs in there on the double play and he has got enough power to hurt you. We're excited to have him."

The signing of Iguchi allows the Padres to give rookie Matt Antonelli -- who has played half a season at the Double-A level -- time to refine his skills at the Triple-A level. Antonelli, as well as the host of other in-house candidates, had been mentioned in the mix for the second-base job.

Second base isn't muddled anymore, though, as the Padres envision Iguchi hitting second, not to mention giving them something they lacked at second base last season -- consistency.

Last season, San Diego signed Marcus Giles to play second base, though he lost his job shortly after his batting average plummeted. Geoff Blum did an admirable job as a fill-in, though he's not the defensive player Iguchi is.

"What I saw was a very steady and dependable player who was always a tough out," said Padres manager Bud Black, who saw plenty of Iguchi when both were in the American League. "What I liked about Tad is in a tough situation, he was able to give good at-bats."

Done dealing?: Towers officially leaves on vacation on Wednesday, which could mean the Padres are done, or close to done, constructing their roster for the 2008 season.

Towers said Tuesday that the trade for Jim Edmonds on Saturday essentially means the team is no longer in the mix for free-agent outfielder Geoff Jenkins as a platoon player in left field, but he didn't rule out trading for outfield help.

The Padres are believed to be one of the many teams still in the chase for now-free agent Mark Prior to bolster their rotation, though they have several in-house candidates who can do the job.

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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