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Padres sign Kevin Correia; non-tender Worrell and Quezada

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  • Padres sign Kevin Correia; non-tender Worrell and Quezada

    It wasn’t quite an eleventh-hour deal.

    But Kevin Correia’s contract agreement with the Padres came close enough to the club-imposed 9 o’clock deadline last night to make the right-handed starter nervous.

    “I really didn’t know if it was going to happen,” Correia said after agreeing around 4 yesterday afternoon to receive $3.6 million to pitch for the Padres in 2010.

    “This is where I want to pitch and this kind of came down to the wire. I was nervous. Now I can enjoy Christmas. It’s good to have this taken care of.”

    In addition to signing Correia, the Padres last night issued contracts to 32 players, including the three players who were also arbitration eligible: relief pitchers Heath Bell and Mike Adams and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff.

    The Padres let the 9 p.m. deadline for offering contracts pass without tendering contracts to two relief pitchers – Jackson Quezada and Mark Worrell, both of whom were injured last year. Both are now free agents, although Padres General Manager Jed Hoyer last night said the club is interested in re-signing both.

    The Padres now have 37 players on their 40-man roster.

    While Correia’s 2010 contract is set, Bell, Adams and Kouzmanoff are entering another chapter of negotiations.

    The Padres can still trade or sign them. But if no trade is completed or a contract agreement reached, the three will go to arbitration. The sides will exchange salary figures Jan. 19 with arbitration meetings set to start Feb. 1.

    Correia, however, reached his agreement after Hoyer said the Padres would not offer the 29-year-old a contract that could result in arbitration.

    “I am very happy it ended the way it did,” said Correia, who might have made $4 million on the free-agent market off his 2009 statistics.

    Correia, a San Diego native, was 12-11 with a 3.91 ERA in 33 starts for the Padres last season. The Padres were 19-14 in games started by Correia, whose 22 quality starts (three runs or fewer in six innings) was the 11th-best mark in the National League. No other Padre made more than 19 starts last season.

    Correia signed a minor league free-agent contract with the Padres last December after being non-tendered by San Francisco. He made a $750,000 base and another $300,000 in performance incentives.

    Correia and the Padres briefly talked about a two-year contract or options for 2011. But neither side pushed for an extension. At the end of the 2010 season, the Grossmont High and Grossmont College product will be a sixth-year free agent.

    “We weren’t going to push for a multiyear contract when it might not be to Kevin’s advantage,” said Barry Axelrod, Correia’s agent. “Both parties thought a one-year deal was the thing to do,” said Hoyer.

    Hoyer said the Padres will still be “on the lookout for a veteran starter and relief pitcher” even with the signing of Correia.

    “Getting a starter would have been more imperative if we had not signed Kevin,” said Hoyer.

    At the moment, the Padres’ top four starters appear to be Chris Young, who is coming off shoulder surgery, Correia, Mat Latos and Clayton Richard. Tim Stouffer, Wade LeBlanc and Sean Gallagher are the other leading candidates for a spot in the rotation.

    Hoyer last night said he had all but suspended any trade talks regarding Kouzmanoff the past two days while concentrating on Correia.

    “We did have conversations with teams about Correia,” said Hoyer. “We wanted him to sign before (last night’s) tender deadline. Since I left Indianapolis (where the Winter Meetings ended Thursday), I’ve focused almost exclusively on Correia.”

    Worrell, 26, was acquired last winter from St. Louis in the trade that sent shortstop Khalil Greene to the Cardinals. The Padres later got right-handed reliever Luke Gregerson to complete the trade.

    Worrell missed the 2009 season after undergoing surgery in March to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

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