Luis Salazar, a utility player who left the Padres as a free agent before last season, is back with team for a third time.
The Padres acquired Salazar from Detroit Thursday afternoon in exchange for Mike Brumley, a minor league shortstop.
Manager Jack McKeon said the Padres traded for Salazar because they needed to add veteran strength to the bench.
“You look at what we have available, and the area we are probably weak on experience is our bench,” McKeon said. “Now we’re not only more experienced, but it also gives us more versatility.”
Salazar, 32, has played every position except catcher in parts of nine major league seasons, even twice appearing as a relief pitcher for the Padres in 1987.
Salazar, whose three opening day starts at third base are the most in Padre history, also should provide insurance should Randy Ready falter there.
Ready, who like Salazar is right-handed, had been expected to share third with Tim Flannery, a left-handed hitter. But Ready, 29, has had an uneven spring. He is batting .213 and has made four errors in 13 games. He batted .266 last season after hitting .309 in 1987, his first full season with the Padres after he was acquired from Milwaukee midway through 1986.
“I don’t think anything of it,” Ready said. “What can I think? Right now, it looks like he’ll give us more depth on the bench.”
Salazar is coming off one of his best seasons. He hit .270 for the Tigers, slightly above his .265 career average; had 12 homers, second only to his 14 with Padres in 1983, and equaled his 1982 career best of 62 runs batted in.
But Salazar tailed off sharply in the second half, in which he had only two home runs, 17 RBIs and a .223 average (after batting .305 in the first half).
Salazar was hitting .233 (seven for 30) for the Tigers in spring training, with one home run and two RBIs.
“He is coming off his best year,” McKeon said, “and my scouts just saw him play two days ago, and they said he looks great.”
The trade was the first for the Padres since an Oct. 28 deal that sent Keith Moreland and Chris Brown to the Tigers in exchange for pitcher Walt Terrell. That trade, coincidentally, was one of the reasons Salazar was available. Brown has taken over as the Tigers’ regular third baseman.
The trade was one of three made by Detroit Thursday. The Tigers also sent pitcher Eric King to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Kenny Williams and infielder Tom Brookens to the New York Yankees for pitcher Charlie Hudson.
It was not a blockbuster deal for the Padres, but it gave McKeon something he said he has been seeking all spring: more experienced players on the bench.
Salazar played 130 games for the Tigers last season, including 68 in the outfield, 37 at shortstop and 31 at third.
The acquisition of Salazar and departure of Brumley leaves three players--Joey Cora, Gary Green and Bip Roberts--to contend for a remaining utility spot. All three played last season at triple-A Las Vegas.
Roberts is the most versatile of the three because he can play the outfield and infield. Green is considered the strongest fielder but until last season had only played shortstop. Cora is the best all-around player of the group.
McKeon said he first discussed acquiring Salazar with Tiger officials last week and that the talks became more serious Wednesday afternoon. He said it was not a difficult deal to accept because he had a chance to obtain a veteran player for one who was not assured of making the team.
“We’re picking up a more experience guy, a guy who is familiar with our system,” McKeon said. “He has had success here, and he is a good guy to have on your ballclub.”
Brumley, 25, who was given a chance to earn a job as a regular backup to shortstop Garry Templeton, had an unimpressive spring. He batted .261 and had eight strikeouts in 23 at-bats.
“I got the phone call from Jack, and my heart dropped,” Brumley said. “I thought, ‘OK. This is Jack McKeon, and he is only calling for one reason.’ Then it was over; I was gone.
“I’m pretty stunned, really.”
But Brumley had asked McKeon for a trade last September while expressing displeasure over not being called up at the end of the season after batting .315 at Las Vegas.
Brumley’s only major league experience was at the end of 1987, when he played 39 games with the Chicago Cubs. He came to the Padres in the 1988 deal that sent Rich Gossage and Ray Hayward to the Cubs and brought Moreland to the Padres.
Now Brumley is reunited with Moreland in Detroit, and Salazar is back with McKeon and the Padres for a third time.
McKeon said he talked with Salazar shortly after the deal was made.
“He said, ‘It’s three times. I’m getting like (Kurt) Bevacqua,’ ” said McKeon, who worked on the same team as Bevacqua three times in the majors, once in Kansas City and twice with the Padres.
Salazar started with the Padres in 1980 and was a member of the 1984 National League championship team. He was traded to the White Sox in December of 1984 as part of a seven-player deal that brought LaMarr Hoyt to San Diego.
The White Sox released him in 1986 after he had knee surgery, and he joined the Padres as a free agent four days before the start of the 1987 season. He played four games at Las Vegas before he was recalled, and he ended up batting .254 in 84 games.
He signed with the Tigers as a free agent in February of 1988 after McKeon told him he would have to start the season in Las Vegas.
McKeon said Salazar was happy to return: “He said, ‘Jack you’re like my daddy, you always take care of me, thank you.’ ”
Times Staff Writer Bill Plaschke contributed to this story.
Sandy Alomar scored from second on an error with two out in the 13th inning to give the Padres a 5-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics Thursday night at Desert Sun Stadium. Alomar reached first on a single and was sacrificed to second by winning pitcher Dave Leiper (2-0). He scored when third baseman Tony Phillips allowed a hard ground ball by outfielder Shawn Abner go between his legs and into left field for the eighth error of the game. The Padres sent the game into extra innings on two runs with two out in the ninth. . . . The Padres (13-6-1) conclude their two-game series with the A’s (11-11) today at 12:05 p.m. PST. Eric Show (2-0, 4.82 earned run average) will oppose Mike Moore (0-0, 2.77 ERA). The teams will play a B game at 9 a.m. PST. . . . Outfielder Shawn Mack said an examination by Angels orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum this week confirmed a diagnosis by Padre physicians that he has a bone chip in his right (throwing) elbow. Mack said surgery is not recommended at this time but that an operation might be necessary, and it would likely force him to miss the season.
Times Staff Writer Bill Plaschke contributed to this story.
LUIS SALAZAR IN THE MAJORS
Team, Year AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG San Diego, 1980 169 28 57 4 7 1 25 11 .337 San Diego, 1981 400 37 121 19 6 3 38 11 .303 San Diego, 1982 524 55 127 15 5 8 62 32 .242 San Diego, 1983 481 52 124 16 2 14 45 17 .258 San Diego, 1984 228 20 55 7 2 3 17 11 .241 Chicago (AL), 1985 327 39 80 18 2 10 45 14 .245 Chicago (AL), 1986 7 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .143 San Diego, 1987 189 13 48 5 0 3 17 3 .254 Detroit, 1988 452 61 122 14 1 12 62 6 .270 Totals 2777 306 735 98 25 54 311 112 .265