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Padres Could Lose Hernandez

San Diego Padres starting catcher Carlos Hernandez faced surgery Thursday evening to repair his ruptured left Achilles' tendon and likely will miss the entire season.

The surgery was to be performed by team doctors Jan Fronek and Steven Copp at Scripps Green Hospital. Fronek said Thursday afternoon that the team medical staff believes the tendon was completely torn.

Hernandez was injured after hitting a pop fly in San Diego's 7-6 exhibition win against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday in Tucson.

After seven seasons as a backup in Los Angeles and one in San Diego, Hernandez became the Padres' everyday catcher last year. He handled a staff that had the fourth-lowest ERA in the majors, and hit .262 with nine homers and 52 RBI.

Hernandez had several clutch hits in the regular season, then hit .325 in the postseason for the NL champion Padres. He led San Diego with a .417 average in the division series with against Houston.

He was rewarded in December with a $6.5 million, three-year contract.

"I think the sad thing is, last year he really was able to shed that label of just being a backup catcher," general manger Kevin Towers said from Peoria, Ariz. "He proved not only to us, but to the baseball world, that he's a solid, everyday catcher. It's tough when you lose your everyday catcher. He's more than just one of your nine. I mean, they're responsible for the success of your pitching staff, too."

The Padres planned to carry three catchers this year, with Jim Leyritz and Greg Myers backing up Hernandez, the stronger defensive player of the three. Towers said the team will use the final two weeks of spring training to decide whether to carry two or three catchers.

Top prospect Ben Davis, who had been slated to play at Class AAA Las Vegas, could get a shot. Also in camp is Mark Parent, 37, who was signed primarily to work with Davis in Las Vegas.

"We don't have to carry three," said Towers, who added that the Padres could go with two catchers and then carry an extra pitcher or outfielder. But Leyritz, who is Sterling Hitchcock's personal catcher, also backs up Wally Joyner at first base, and the Padres could leave themselves a little bare if they go with just two catchers.

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