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Benoit among targets as Padres aim to bolster 'pen

Friars looking for 'difference-maker,' but could go internal route for relief help

SAN DIEGO -- Reliever Joaquin Benoit is still very much in play for the Padres, who are looking to add one or two more relievers to their bullpen before the start of Spring Training.

San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes said Tuesday that "if there's a legit guy, we'll pursue it ... but if it's not a difference-maker, we'll likely go with our young guys."

The Padres have been linked to Benoit, a 36-year-old right-hander who is a free agent that the Friars feel could very easily slide into the eighth-inning role that was previously occupied by Luke Gregerson, who was recently traded to the A's for outfielder Seth Smith.

"There are still some right-handers out there," Byrnes said.

The Padres aren't averse to adding a left-handed reliever, even though the team picked up one during last week's Rule 5 Draft in Patrick Schuster, who hasn't pitched higher than Class A.

"We're still in touch with several scenarios with left-handed relievers ... probably more through trade than free agent at this point," Byrnes said.

If the Padres can't land Benoit, the team could go the internal route, meaning Dale Thayer would likely handle the eighth inning and Nick Vincent the seventh. The organization is high on a pair of right-handed prospects, Kevin Quackenbush and Leonel Campos. Burch Smith, who was impressive in September, could slide into a long-relief role if he doesn't make the rotation or doesn't head to Triple-A El Paso.

Byrnes also talked about "shuffling out depth," which could mean the team could part with players who are projected to be on the 25-man roster or on the bubble of making the Opening Day roster.

That could mean that players like outfielder/first baseman Kyle Blanks and Jesus Guzman could be trade chips -- either on a singular basis or part of a larger deal.

"We're talking about guys that are in an area of surplus, trading them for depth that can better serve us," Byrnes said.

The Padres have already signed free-agent pitcher Josh Johnson and made the deal that landed Smith, helping shore up their woes against right-handed pitching a year ago. But Byrnes said the team is still looking at upgrades.

"There's still one or two big ideas still out there," he said. "We're not closing the door on anything."

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.
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