07/10/06 4:39 PM ET
If needed, Hoffman ready to slam door
Padres closer has converted 24 of 25 save opportunities
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
This All-Star Game carries extra meaning to Hoffman, whose team is a contender to face the American League's best in the World Series. San Diego has a 48-40 record and a two-game lead in the NL West."I like how our ballclub could set up in a short series -- and over the long haul," Hoffman said. He delivered on 24 of 25 save attempts in a dazzling first half. In 35 appearances, he put up a 1.03 ERA. "With a lot of changes, I think we have a ballclub that needed time to come together," Hoffman said. "It does take time. The 5-1 trip we just had in Philly and Washington is important. In a way, you hate to take a break when you're rolling like that, but I think it will help some guys to take a rest. "We want to keep that momentum going when we come back after the break, but you can't get too excited too early. It's a tough division, and I know a lot of people think it's going down to the wire. But with our pitching and defense, and with our offense coming around, I think we have the ingredients to separate ourselves a little." Hoffman, 38, called himself one of the "old goats" on the NL roster. He also alluded to the Padres' superlative defense when asked to comment on manager Bruce Bochy's view that Hoffman is as good as ever, if not better. "I might personally have had better stuff earlier in my career," Hoffman said. "If you look at the number of hits versus strikeouts, I might have been more dominating. "But I have been better because of the support around me. Those guys have been making plays that have saved my hide." Hoffman referred to the latest in a string of sensational plays by shortstop Khalil Greene behind him in Washington on Saturday night. "He backhanded it, went up in the air and threw to first," Hoffman said. "He's kind of getting into this whole thing of saving my butt. For Greeney, it's kind of cool." Hoffman mentioned Greene, Chris Young and center fielder Mike Cameron among teammates he considered deserving of All-Star berths. "I wish we could have had more representation here," he said. "We're a first-place club, eight games over .500. But we fly under the radar." In October, he hopes, the radar will find the Padres.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.