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Sprague Signs With Padres

Ed Sprague, an All-Star with Pittsburgh last year in one of his best seasons, agreed Thursday to a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres.

The 32-year-old third baseman, who had been courted by Japanese teams, would get an $800,000, one-year contract if he makes the team and have the chance for an additional $500,000 in performance bonuses.

"I think it's a very good thing for Ed," said his agent, John Boggs. "He'll be able to get a lot of at-bats, because (manager) Bruce Bochy is good about that. It's nothing but adding a positive to the team."

Sprague hit .267 with 22 home runs and 81 RBIs last year and was Pittsburgh's only All-Star. He also committed 29 errors and broke his left hand on Sept. 19 when he was hit by a pitch.

The Padres sign Ed Sprague after giving up on Danny Tartabull, 37, who hadn't played since 1997. The Padres offered to pay Tartabull $250,000 if he made the team, but he balked at performance bonuses that would kick in at 100 games started. Tartabull wanted the Padres to base the bonus on games played, not starts.

The Padres are set with Phil Nevin at third base and Ryan Klesko at first, but Sprague provides insurance at those positions, plus in the outfield and at catcher.

"He could find his way into the starting lineup," general manager Kevin Towers said. "He's got to realize that he could be a role player."

If Sprague makes the club, he would give the Padres a fifth player capable of hitting 20 homers. The others are Nevin, Klesko, center fielder Ruben Rivera and new second baseman Bret Boone.

Sprague is a nine-year veteran who earned World Series rings with Toronto in 1992 and 1993. A native of Stockton, Calif., Sprague was a member of the U.S. gold medal Olympic team in 1988.

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