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PADRES UPDATE : NOTEBOOK / BOB NIGHTENGALE : Reds’ Duncan Would Welcome a Chance to Play in San Diego

It’s still unknown how serious the Padres are in acquiring second baseman Mariano Duncan of the Cincinnati Reds, but if it were up to Duncan, he’d be on the next flight to San Diego.

“That’s the team I want to play for,” Duncan said. “Oh, man, I’d love to play there so bad. I just want to go to a place where I can play. And the place I want to go is San Diego.

“I love it there. The weather is great. The town is beautiful. I’m even thinking about buying a home in San Diego this winter. People know what I can do. I proved myself last year. I just want to do it again, and hopefully in San Diego.”

Duncan hit .306 with a league-leading 11 triples, 10 homers and 55 RBIs last season for the Reds. But with the acquisition of Billy Doran, Duncan has been left on the bench. He is batting .210 with two homers and 14 RBIs. He’s eligible to become a free agent at the end of the season, and it’s become obvious that he’s not staying.

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“There’s no chance, no chance at all he’s staying in Cincinnati,” said Tony Attanasio, Duncan’s agent. “And Mariano Duncan would love being a San Diego Padre. I think he and Tony Fernandez would be absolutely phenomenal together.”

Duncan and Fernandez grew up together in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic.

Joe McIlvaine, Padre general manager, confirmed that he has had talks with the Reds about Duncan, but said: “They’ve talked to us more than we’ve talked to them.”

The Reds desperately are searching for starting pitching, and Duncan and first baseman Todd Benzinger are being shopped.

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If everything goes well this week in Midland, Texas, first baseman Phil Stephenson will be taken off the disabled list and join the Padres at the All-Star break, McIlvaine said.

“This is the acid test,” McIlvaine said. “If he holds up this week, you’ll see him back here.”

Stephenson, out all season with a broken bone in his right kneecap, is playing for the Padres’ double-A Wichita team on a rehabilitative assignment. McIlvaine said Stephenson is running fine and could be a valuable asset to the Padres as a left-handed pinch-hitter. If he’s activated, he likely will take the place of catcher Brian Dorsett or outfielder Shawn Abner.

Quote of the week:

Reds Manager Lou Piniella on the pains of managing: “With the way things are going these days, you’ve got to ask yourself why a manager would even want a contract extension?

“I remember seeing (Mets Manager) Buddy Harrelson last year after he got the job, and I told him right there, ‘You watch, the beer will suddenly start tasting a lot better, and so will the vodka.’

“I saw him again a couple of weeks ago, and he said, ‘You know Lou, you were right. I’m a lot thirstier after games now, and a lot less hungry.’ ”

Ex-Padre of the Week Award goes to third baseman Carlos Baerga of the Cleveland Indians, the throw-in player in their deal to obtain Joe Carter.

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Baerga hit .400 for the week with a homer, two doubles and two RBIs. He’s batting .275 for the season with eight homers and 30 RBIs.

Considering the Padres have used six different third basemen this season, there are few days when they aren’t reminded of his departure.

If Andre Dawson does not get voted to the All-Star team, Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn likely will start in right field in the All-Star Game, Piniella said. . . . The Padres signed right-handed pitcher Jon Barnes, their second-round selection, the club announced Saturday. Barnes posted an 8-2 record and a 1.00 ERA for Lancaster (South Carolina) High, striking out 56 in 42 innings. He’ll report to the Padres’ Scottsdale team in the Arizona Rookie League. The Padres also signed outfielder Dwight Wyatt, their No. 23 selection, from Halifax County High in Scottsburg, Va. The Padres have signed 36 players in the draft, including 12 of their first 14 picks and 19 of the top 24. . . . Giant left fielder Kevin Mitchell’s three-run homer off Padre starter Bruce Hurst Friday was the first homer of the year against Hurst with men on base. Hurst previously had allowed eight solo homers. . . . Padre third-base Coach Bruce Kimm celebrated his 40th birthday Saturday. . . . Giant pitcher Bud Black, a San Diego State alumnus, turned 34 today. . . . The Padres and Giants will conclude their three-game series at 1:05 p.m. today. Andy Benes (4-8) and Mike Remlinger (2-0) are the scheduled starters. The Giants have moved John Burkett (4-4) back to Wednesday. Burkett is suffering from back spasms, which caused him to miss his first start of his big-league career Friday. . . . Padre left-handed reliever Pat Clements was given a cortisone shot Saturday for his ailing right shoulder. . . . Catcher Mike Basso of double-A Wichita underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and will be sidelined at least until July 11.


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