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Padres line up bullpen upgrades at Meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Padres general manager Josh Byrnes hadn't completed any trades or signed anyone as of Monday evening, but the club is set up to move quickly after spending the first full day of the Winter Meetings focused on upgrading the bullpen.

Byrnes said his crew worked through "six or eight ideas that made some sense," a mix of potential trades and free-agent pickups, at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort. They had several meetings lined up for later Monday night as well.

The Padres' needs are obvious: They could use a lefty reliever, maybe two, and they'd like another right-hander who can pitch later in the game.

But will they leave Disney on Thursday with any of that in tow? Stay tuned.

"We're beyond the tire-kicking stage. We're trying to go back and forth with proposals and try to get some deals done," Byrnes said. "But obviously it's hard sometimes to predict when that's going to happen.

"We're close on a number of discussions, but whether it actually comes to fruition while we're here, I'm not sure. But we're definitely focused on that area of our roster right now. We feel like we're having good conversations, but whether we'll reach a deal in the next two or three days, I'm not sure."

It was a relatively slow first day of the Winter Meetings, at least in terms of actual transactions taking place, but Byrnes expects that to pick up by Tuesday or Wednesday. He said the Padres were probably closer to acquiring a left-handed reliever than a late-inning righty, but "on all fronts we've made progress."

Byrnes was asked specifically about free-agent lefty Oliver Perez, who pitched for the Padres in 2002-03, and the GM's answer provided a glimpse at just how wide a net San Diego has cast in its search for relief-corps reinforcements.

"I won't go into specifics, but I think most of the left-handed [reliever] free agents, we've at least touched base with," Byrnes said. "I can't really say how far we've gone with some of these guys."

Other free-agent lefty-relief options likely include Scott Downs, who split last year between the Angels and Braves, former Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell and former Braves lefty Eric O'Flaherty, who's been connected to several other teams. Or they could stay away from that group of free agents entirely by making a trade or bringing in Minor League free agents.

Right now, the Padres don't have a left-handed reliever on their 40-man roster, making that the more pressing matter. Byrnes said he could envision some of the club's younger right-handers growing into late-inning relief roles, and San Diego's surplus of starters could force one of them into the bullpen.

Byrnes declined to divulge whether the Padres actually have any offers out to the available free-agent relievers. Instead, he simply said the club has made "proposals," noting that the catch-all word could apply to potential trades or free agents -- or a combination of both.

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.
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