Hoffman retires after 601 saves in 18 seasons

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In 1992, Sheffield won the NL batting title with the Padres and made a run at the Triple Crown.

Dick Freeman, the Padres‘ team president at the time, attended Wednesday’s news conference.

“As I said to somebody the other day, everybody thought there was a Hall of Famer in that trade, but I don’t think many people thought it was going to be the guy we were getting,” Freeman said.

Hoffman was converted from shortstop to pitcher in the minor leagues when his manager got tired of him overthrowing first base. He said his changeup developed over time, starting when he learned a new grip from Donnie Elliott, who was acquired from Atlanta in the Fred McGriff trade in July 1993.

Hoffman, a native of Southern California, said another factor in relying on the changeup came in the mid-1990s when he “jacked up my shoulder screwing around on the beach, throwing a Nerf football and playing volleyball.”

While that affected the velocity of his fastball, his changeup got better.

“When you’re out there as a closer you want to get strikes and you want to get them quick,” Hoffman said. “Sometimes you don’t want to waste your whole repertoire to get into an out situation or a count. If you have pretty good conviction on two pitches, I think that’s enough you want to deal with.”

Former Padres teammate Phil Nevin, now the manager of the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, marveled at how quickly Hoffman mastered the changeup.

“Remember, I first started catching when I was here, and the darn thing was hard to catch, and I knew it was coming,” Nevin said. “Every time he threw it, you thought he crossed you up because it would come out of his hand like a fastball even though you knew it was a changeup.”

Hoffman was part of four NL West championship clubs and helped the Padres get to the 1998 World Series. He had only four postseason saves, though, and gave up Scott Brosius’ stunning three-run homer in Game 3 of the 1998 World Series, which the New York Yankees swept.

There was also the disappointing end to the 2007 season, when he blew two save chances in three games.

One strike from clinching the wild card on the final Saturday of the season, he allowed a tying RBI triple to Tony Gwynn Jr., and the Brewers went on to win 4-3 in 11 innings.

Two days later, in a wild-card tiebreaker at Colorado, the Rockies rallied for three runs against Hoffman in the bottom of the 13th inning to win 9-8.

Hoffman called it the toughest loss of his career.

Black recalled Hoffman taking responsibility for the blown saves.

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