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Hoffman hopes to return to Brewers

Hoffman hopes to return to Brewers

PHOENIX -- Trevor Hoffman has been comfortable in his first season with the Brewers, so comfortable that he'd like a return engagement in Milwaukee next year for what would be his 18th Major League season.

"I don't want to start over in an another organization, I can tell you that," Hoffman told MLB.com, referring to his adjustment after 16 seasons with the Padres. "Everything has gone very well here. They've made me feel more than welcome. If I have the choice, I'd really like to come back here. But that isn't my decision."

Hoffman signed a one-year contract with the Brewers this past season, shunning a possible club option for 2010 because he wanted to determine how he felt pitching a season away from his wife and three young boys, who remained most of the year in San Diego. Now, he's about to be a free agent again.

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"And we'll see what happens," said Hoffman, who will turn 42 on Oct. 13.

There are just 20 games remaining in a season where the Brewers were expected to vie again for a playoff spot. That didn't happen, but it wasn't because of Hoffman, who now needs only 14 saves to become the first closer in history to reach 600. He's at 586, 65 ahead of the Yankees' Marino Rivera on the all-time list.

"You never know, it could still happen this season, I could get on a roll," Hoffman said, almost a tad facetiously.

Despite missing the first three weeks of the season coming back from an oblique strain he suffered during Spring Training, Hoffman has 32 saves in 35 opportunities and his 1.96 ERA would be his lowest for a full season since he had a 1.48 ERA (with 53 saves) for the 1998 National League-champion Padres. He's recorded at least 30 saves every season since 1995, except for 2003, when he missed the first five months after undergoing shoulder surgery in Spring Training.

"He's been terrific," Brewers manager Ken Macha said.

Hoffman had a $4 million offer to return to the Padres, but for various reasons it was pulled off the table in December before he could take it. The Brewers vigorously pursued him, and a month later he signed a $6 million base deal that includes $1.5 million in incentives tied to games finished, making the NL All-Star team and various postseason awards.

Thus far, Hoffman has picked up $400,000 of the bonuses -- $350,000 for finishing 38 games and another $50,000 as a late add to the All-Star team.

If anyone had any doubts about Hoffman's effectiveness coming into the season, those should be dissuaded. He had surgery to clean out his right elbow after the 2007 season, when he blew two of San Diego's last three games, including a one-game playoff vs. Colorado for the NL's Wild Card spot. Coming off the surgery, he was spotty early in '08, but he ultimately returned to form, saving 16 games in a row at one point on his way to 30 saves in 34 opportunities.

Hoffman wants to continue playing as long as he can contribute. The specter of 600 saves is an added incentive. Hoffman believes it's his ticket to the Hall of Fame, because he hasn't had the postseason chances or successes of Rivera, who has 34 saves and 0.77 postseason ERA. Hoffman was in the World Series once, and the playoffs only three other times, with the Padres.

"You know the way I think about these things," Hoffman said. "Every time I save a game, that means it's another win for my team. The numbers just pile up accordingly."

Do they ever. This year, Hoffman, with a win and 32 saves, is quite close to having a hand in almost half of the Brewers' 69 wins. Last year in San Diego, Hoffman had three wins and 30 saves for a Padres team that won only 63.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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