SAN DIEGO (AP) — Baseball's all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman has thrown his final changeup, deciding at age 43 to retire and return to the San Diego Padres in a front office job. The Beverly Hills Sports Council, which represents Hoffman, confirmed Tuesday that he is done after recording 601 saves in 18 seasons.
Hoffman played the bulk of his career with San Diego after being acquired as a rookie from the Florida Marlins in 1993 during the Padres' infamous "Fire Sale" that stripped away most of their high-paid veterans. He left San Diego as a free agent following the 2008 season after contract talks abruptly ended, and pitched with the Milwaukee Brewers for two seasons.
MLB.com first reported Hoffman's retirement.
Hoffman didn't return messages seeking comment. Hoffman is scheduled to appear at a news conference at Petco Park on Wednesday morning.
Padres co-owner Jeff Moorad said Hoffman will spend the next year familiarizing himself with several departments, including baseball operations, and then the two sides will determine what area will be best for him.
"Clearly, Trevor is one of the most significant players that the organization has ever had and we felt it only appropriate for him to return to the Padres family," Moorad told The Associated Press. "We're thrilled that he was agreeable with coming back."
Moorad said the sides decided against having Hoffman return to the team for one day before retiring.
"Given the seriousness with which Trevor is approaching his next stage of his life, I don't think he or we cared to focus on the theatrics," Moorad said.
The Padres abruptly pulled a contract offer off the table following the 2008 season, leading to a less-than-amicable parting for a player who had become the face of the franchise after Tony Gwynn retired following the 2001 season. The front office has changed dramatically since then.
Although Hoffman struggled toward the end of his career, his home save opportunities were always lively because AC/DC's "Hells Bells" began blaring from the sound system the instant he started jogging in from the bullpen.
Known for his high leg kick, menacing glare and deceptive changeup, Hoffman became the career saves leader when he notched No. 479 at home on Sept. 24, 2006, breaking the previous mark of 478 by Lee Smith. The following June, Hoffman reached 500, also at home and against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
He had 552 saves with the Padres.
Then an unknown rookie, Hoffman had two saves for Florida in 1993 before being acquired by the Padres on June 24, 1993, along with two other players for Gary Sheffield and Rich Rodriguez. Then-general manager Randy Smith said the Padres received "value for value" in the deal. But fans, steamed at the exodus of talent, booed Hoffman during his first several appearances. As he grew into the closer's role, it was clear that Smith had indeed traded for a valuable player.
Hoffman was brilliant in his first season in Milwaukee, converting 37 of 41 save opportunities with a 1.83 ERA.
He also relished his role of no longer being a vocal leader or face of a franchise like he was all those years in San Diego. He organized conditioning drills and games of football for the relievers before that night's contest and enjoyed riding into Miller Park on a skateboard that he picked up in Wisconsin.
In his first season, Hoffman didn't bother to put a telephone line in the house he rented.
"Things were almost a 180 from what they were at San Diego as far as family commitments, commitments that come from playing and living in the same city and just so many of the normal routines that you build up at home for a long period of time that really all kind of went away," Hoffman told The Associated Press in July 2009, just before he went to the All-Star Game.
But after signing a new contract to stay in Milwaukee, last season became a struggle. Hoffman blew five of his first 10 save opportunities and was passed over by rookie John Axford while his ERA ballooned to 13.15 early in the season.
Hoffman eventually returned to a setup role, but only got sporadic save opportunities — including No. 600 on Sept. 7, the most memorable moment of a forgettable season for the Brewers.
AP Sports Writer Colin Fly in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.