Oxspring headed to Japan

Oxspring headed to Japan

The Padres have sold the contract of right-handed pitcher Chris Oxspring to the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League for a reported $550,000.

Replacing the 28-year-old Australian on the 40-man roster is catcher Pete Laforest, who was claimed off waivers from the Devil Rays. The Friars also agreed to terms with outfielder Jack Cust on a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Sent to the Pirates to complete the deal for infielder Bobby Hill was Class A pitcher Clayton Hamilton, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound right-hander from Penn State taken in the 17th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. Hamilton hails from Beaver Falls, Pa., Joe Namath's hometown, so he'll be returning home.

Laforest, 27, batted .172 with one home run, three doubles and four RBIs in 25 games with Tampa Bay in 2005. He opened the season with the Devil Rays' Triple-A Durham affiliate, where he hit .270 with 21 home runs, 18 doubles, 52 RBIs and 41 runs scored. His home run total was the second-highest of any catcher in the International League last season.

Laforest, who is 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds, is from Hull, Quebec. The lone Major League receiver on Team Canada's initial roster for the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March, he should see extensive action in the first round against Team USA and Mexico.

With the Padres having acquired catcher Doug Mirabelli from the Red Sox in exchange for second baseman Mark Loretta at the Winter Meetings, they now have four receivers on the roster. Incumbent Miguel Olivo is expected to share most of the catching with Mirabelli, with Laforest and veteran David Ross competing for the third spot.

Over parts of two Major League seasons with the Devil Rays, Laforest has a career batting average of .170 with one homer and 10 RBIs in 44 games.

Originally drafted by the Expos in the 16th round of the 1995 First-Year Player Draft, Laforest has a career Minor League batting average of .258 with 101 homers, 143 doubles and 374 RBIs in 681 games between the Montreal (1995) and Tampa Bay (1997-2005) organizations.

Cust, 26, batted .257 with 19 home runs and 75 RBIs in 134 games for the A's Triple-A Sacramento affiliate. Cust's 19 homers led the club, while his 74 RBIs ranked second among team leaders.

Originally a first-round pick of the Diamondbacks in the 1997 First-Year Player Draft, Cust has a career batting average of .220 with five home runs, nine doubles and 19 RBIs in 66 games over parts of four Major League seasons with Arizona, Colorado and Baltimore.

Hamilton, 23, was 9-6 with a 2.88 ERA at Fort Wayne and 2-2 with a 5.14 ERA at Lake Elsinore in 2005.

While pitching in the independent Frontier League, Oxspring was signed on Oct. 31, 2000, out of a tryout camp for $1 by scout Bill Bryk, now the Padres' Minor League field coordinator. He appeared in five games with the Padres in September with no record and a 3.75 ERA and 11 strikeouts.

In five Minor League seasons in the Padres organization, Oxspring has a 32-18 record with a 3.60 ERA. He was 12-6 with Portland in '05, finishing seventh in the Pacific Coast League in ERA at 4.03 and fourth in strikeouts with 125 in 160 2/3 innings.

At the 2004 Athens Summer Games, Oxspring pitched so brilliantly for his native Australia he was named the International Baseball Federation's Male Player of the Year. He did not allow a run in 14 2/3 innings of two starts, shutting down favored Japan to thrust the Aussies into the gold-medal game against Cuba, taken by the Cubans.

With the addition of Laforest, the Padres' 40-man roster now stands at 35.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.