Finding starter could be priority for Padres

Finding starter could be priority for Padres

SAN DIEGO -- Padres general manager Jed Hoyer hasn't made any late additions to his offseason wish list, though one area of need might get addressed sooner rather than later.

"It's hard to prioritize," Hoyer said this week. "... [Starting] pitching, shortstop, second base, that is what I'm focused on. Whatever comes first. I have a feeling that [starting] pitching might [come first]."

The Padres are looking for at least one starting pitcher to join Mat Latos, Tim Stauffer and Clayton Richard in the starting rotation after Jon Garland, a 14-game winner in his only season with the team, signed with the Dodgers.

There's even a thought the Padres might look for two starting pitchers for 2011, though they have two left-handers, Cory Luebke and Wade LeBlanc, who could challenge for spots at the back end of the rotation.

The Padres have found it easier to entice free-agent pitchers to PETCO Park than position players, which makes perfect sense considering how pitching-friendly that the downtown ballpark is.

Right-handed pitcher Aaron Harang, who makes his offseason home in San Diego, could be a fit for the team.

Harang said Thursday that the Padres -- among a handful of other teams -- have contacted his agent. He could fit the mold of a pitcher trying to rebuild his credentials at PETCO Park.

"PETCO is one of the very few stadiums left in the league that you can consider to be a true pitcher's park," said Harang, who played the last eight seasons for the Reds, pitching at one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks. "Most of the other parks are geared toward hitters.

"But as San Diego guy, you always think of playing for your hometown team. It would be a cool experience."

Hoyer indicated that at this point, the Padres' starting pitching needs might be somewhat easier to fill through a free-agent acquisition than a trade. The opposite might be the case for finding a shortstop and second baseman.

The Padres have been linked to Tampa Bay shortstop Jason Bartlett, but one source said the asking price is a little steep in terms of players the Rays want in return.

The Padres have interest in Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan, who is now available after the team traded for Ryan Theriot of the Dodgers on Wednesday.

Hoyer said last month the team is still interested in having Jerry Hairston Jr. return in a utility role next season. Hairston made $2.125 million last season on a one-year contract with the team.

"We'd still like to bring him back," Hoyer said.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.