Slumping Red Sox send Wells to San Diego

"Boomer" is back with his hometown San Diego Padres, and this time it's to try to get them back to the playoffs.

David Wells was traded Thursday from the Boston Red Sox to the Padres, who believe the free-spirited lefty will provide the lift they need as they contend for a postseason berth.

"I think we got one of the biggest big-game pitchers there is in the game," general manager Kevin Towers said. "We're getting him at a hot time. His last four starts have been exceptional. This guy thrives this time of year, in September games, in pennant races.

"I'm really hoping David's going to be a difference-maker in this division," Towers said.

The defending NL West champion Padres were off Thursday. They were leading the wild-card race by a half game over Philadelphia and trailing the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers by three games.

The Padres apparently beat out the Dodgers to get Wells, who wanted to return to the West Coast. He's had a new home built in exclusive Rancho Santa Fe, just north of San Diego.

Boston's GM, Theo Epstein, previously worked under Towers in the Padres' front office.

A source told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick that the Red Sox would get minor-league catcher George Kottaras in the deal, which was first reported by ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.

Kottaras is playing for Triple-A Portland, where he is hitting .233 with two homers and 13 RBI. The Red Sox organization is in need of catching, and Kottaras has a reputation as a solid defender.

"It was an opportunity for the organization to turn what was
starting to look like a one-month-only asset into a player who we
feel can help us for a long time," Epstein said. Wells "has been
in that top echelon of pitchers of this generation."

To be on a postseason roster, a player had to be in a team's organization by the end of Thursday.

The 43-year-old Wells, who pitched with the Padres in 2004, was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday night in Boston and designated for assignment.

Wells' locker was nearly empty and four cartons were stacked in front of it before the game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Reliever Julian Tavarez was picked to start in his place.

The 43-year-old Wells has a history of postseason success and has been one of Boston's best starters while the team has fallen far behind in the playoff race with an 8-21 record in August, the worst in the majors for the month. The Red Sox began the day eight games behind in the AL East and 7½ behind in the wild-card standings.

"He was a stabilizer when we needed it most," Boston
right-hander Curt Schilling said before he knew where Wells was
headed. "He's going to be a valuable tool to somebody trying to
get to a World Series and win a World Series."

Wells, who battled knee problems most of the season, is 2-3 with a 4.98 ERA. Since returning from the disabled list on July 31, he is 2-2 in six starts. He has a 2.65 ERA in his last five outings beginning Aug. 5.

Wells was expected to be in uniform when the Padres open a home series against Cincinnati on Friday night. He is expected to start for the Padres on Saturday against the Reds.

Wells has pitched in the postseason 10 times for five clubs -- Boston, the New York Yankees, Toronto, Cincinnati and Baltimore. He has a career postseason record of 10-4 with a 3.15 ERA.

He won World Series rings with Toronto in 1992 and the Yankees in 1998, when they swept the Padres. He was with the Yankees when they lost the 2003 World Series to Florida.

"I think it's great to get a guy with his presence down the stretch," said manager Bruce Bochy, who will add Wells to a rotation that includes Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Woody Williams and Clay Hensley.

The hefty lefty signed with the Padres that offseason and wanted to remain in San Diego after going 12-8 with a 3.73 ERA in 2004. But he wanted guaranteed money while the Padres offered another incentive-laden contract because of their concerns about his age and history of injuries and off-field incidents.

Wells removed Clifton from those talks at one point, and the pitcher and his wife, Nina, were dealing with general manager Kevin Towers. When Nina Wells pushed too hard, Towers pulled the offer.

Boston then gave Wells $8 million guaranteed over two years with incentives that gave him the chance to earn $18 million.

Wells earned $1.25 million in base pay and another $4.75 million in incentives in 2004 by making 31 starts for the Padres. He could have made $1 million more if he hadn't missed three starts after a fluke household injury.

While horsing around with a friend, Wells tripped over a bar stool at home, knocking a bottle of wine onto the floor. He landed on the bottle and a glass he was holding, severing a tendon in his right wrist, which required surgery, and cutting his left palm.

Towers and Wells have remained friends since 2004.

"`He said his knee feels fine," Towers said. "He's excited to be coming back to San Diego in a pennant race. Hopefully he can get this club into the postseason."

Padres players groused when veterans Vinny Castilla and Eric Young were jettisoned earlier this year. This move seems much more popular.

As rumors swirled about Wells, "several of our players said, 'Go get him,'" Towers said. "He's from San Diego and he's been teammates of several guys in the clubhouse right now. He's kind of like [Mike] Piazza, with a swagger, a pedigree."

Wells graduated in 1982 from Point Loma High, the same school that produced Don Larsen. Larsen pitched a perfect game for the Yankees in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Wells pitched a perfect game for the Yankees against Minnesota on May 17, 1998.

Kottaras, 23, was rated San Diego's No. 2 prospect by Baseball America before this season. He has a smooth swing and excellent plate discipline, and he posted an exceptional .392 on-base percentage in his first three seasons in the minors.

The main criticisms of Kottaras: He's a bit undersized for a catcher at 6-0 and 185 pounds, and some baseball talent evaluators question his durability. While Kottaras has a strong throwing arm, his accuracy also comes and goes at times.

Kottaras grew up in Canada and got a late start playing baseball, so the Red Sox think he has some room to refine his game. The Padres, who have Josh Bard and Rob Bowen on their roster along with Mike Piazza, are convinced they're covered at the catching position for the foreseeable future.

Kottaras began this season hitting .276 in 78 games with San Diego's Double-A affiliate in Mobile.

The Red Sox activated left-hander Lenny DiNardo from the 60-day disabled list to take Wells' roster spot.

The Padres signed right-handed reliever Rudy Seanez, who's making his fourth career stop in San Diego. He was designated for assignment by Boston on Aug. 19.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.