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Notes: Future free agents savor Game 3

Notes: Future free agents savor Game 3

SAN DIEGO -- Brian Giles reported to PETCO Park on Saturday knowing it could be his final day with his hometown Padres.

"Yeah, it's out there," Giles said. "Who knows what's going to happen? All I'm thinking about is playing this out.

"When you haven't been a free agent, it's intriguing, a new experience. It's not something I've been through before. I've always had a contract."

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Also in a holding position are cornerstones Trevor Hoffman and Ramon Hernandez. Like Giles, neither the closer nor the catcher has a firm grip on the Padres' position with respect to 2006.

"That's out of my control right now," Hoffman said.

"I'll just have to wait and see what happens," Hernandez said. "Who knows, this could be my last game at PETCO Park for the Padres. It might be my last day on this team.

"All I know is we're not holding anything back [in Game 3]. We're going to give it everything we've got."

Giles has been the Padres' best player in 2005 by any definition -- consistency, durability, productivity and ability.

At 34, he started 154 of 162 games and appeared in 158, leading the club in average (.301), on-base percentage (.423) and slugging percentage (.483) along with runs scored (92), runs batted in (83) and walks (119). He played quality defense in center and right field and ran the bases intelligently and with passion. As always, he led by example.

He won't know who will be following his example next season, having repeatedly expressed a preference for staying near his El Cajon hometown.

Giles came to the Padres on Aug. 26, 2003, in exchange for outfielder Jason Bay and pitcher Oliver Perez, and has been a .293 hitter for San Diego with 42 homers and 195 RBIs in 346 games.

The only potential free agent outfielder in Giles' class is Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon, who has voiced his desire to stay in Boston.

It is not in Giles' nature to make bold declarations regarding his value, but it is believed he'll command upwards of $10 million annually on the open market.

There are questions whether the Padres -- with $10 million already committed next season to both Ryan Klesko and Chan Ho Park -- will elect to meet the market price on their best everyday player.

Also on the fence are other potential free agents -- third baseman Joe Randa, first basemen Mark Sweeney and Robert Fick, starter Pedro Astacio, middle relievers Rudy Seanez and Chris Hammond and all-purpose reserve Damian Jackson.

Team options are held on middle reliever Akinori Otsuka and versatile veteran Eric Young.

Randa has said he'll return to his home in Kansas City after the season and forget about baseball for a while before giving any thought to 2006.

Sweeney in a pinch: In giving a start to Fick at first base for Game 3, Padres manager Bruce Bochy said it enables him to keep Sweeney available for a prime pinch-hitting opportunity.

"It gives us, I think, probably our best pinch-hitter coming off the bench," Bochy said. "We think they're very similar-type players. I just decided to go with Fick, start him. I think overall, he's our best defensive first baseman.

"It's very close between the two. I wish I had a better reason besides what I just told you. I think Sweeney is our best guy coming off the bench."

Sweeney batted .290 this season as a pinch-hitter with two homers and 12 RBIs. Fick was a .370 hitter in a pinch (10-for-27) with a homer and seven RBIs.

Fick batted .500 against the Cards (4-for-8) during the regular season with a homer and two RBIs, and he's 1-for-1 with a walk in the first two games of the NLDS.

Sweeney was 5-for-13 (.385) against the Redbirds in the regular season with a homer and seven RBIs, and he was 2-for-3 with a double and a walk in the two games in St. Louis.

"I'm just happy to get a shot," Fick said. "I don't care how we get it done; we've got to figure out a way to beat these guys and build some momentum. We've done it before, in the regular season, so there's no reason why we can't do it again."

The Padres were 4-3 against St. Louis, taking three of four in Busch Stadium in May.

Eaton ready if needed: Adam Eaton, the Padres' starter if there's a Game 4, said he found something that had been missing in his mechanics in his last regular-season start, a dominating performance (one hit, 11 strikeouts in seven innings) against the Dodgers.

"That's the best I've felt since June," he said, referring to an eight-game winning streak that preceded his June 15 injury to the right middle finger, costing him two months. "I'm confident I'll get a chance to pitch."

Eaton's preparation became more focused when he discovered that Jake Peavy's fractured rib would not enable him to pitch in a Game 4.

Lyle Spencer 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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