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Padres officially sign reliever Benoit

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In a move that was on hold more than a week awaiting a physical exam, the San Diego Padres have finally officially signed right-handed pitcher Joaquin Benoit to a two-year contract through the 2015 season with a vesting option for 2016.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the club designated right-handed pitcher Adys Portillo for assignment.

“Joaquin has proven to be one of the top late-game relievers in baseball,” said Padres General Manager Josh Byrnes. “We are excited to add him to our staff.”

In theory, Benoit -- who will reportedly earn $6 million in 2014 and $8 million in 2015 -- replaces recently traded Luke Gregerson as the eighth-inning setup man for closer Huston Street. But Street has a history of injuries, and Benoit's contract calls for his vesting option for 2016 to kick in if he finishes 55 games in 2015. Byrnes told the media that challenging Street for the closer spot in 2015 is a possibility.

“The Padres are a team that’s going up,” said Benoit via a club release. “This is a (club) that’s looking to go to the playoffs and that’s what it’s all about. The bullpen has a lot of good arms and for me to join that (group), it was an easy decision.”

Benoit, 36, went 4-1 with 24 saves in 26 chances, a 2.01 ERA, 73 strikeouts (22 walks) and a .197 opponent batting average in 66 relief appearances for the Detroit Tigers in 2013. Over the last four seasons, the hard-throwing right-hander has gone 14-9 with 29 saves, a 2.53 ERA, 295 strikeouts (in 259 innings) and a .200 opponent batting average. Among relievers with at least 250 innings pitched since 2010, his 2.53 ERA is the fourth-best in baseball.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Benoit originally signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Texas Rangers in May 1996. Over parts of 12 Major League seasons with the Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays and Tigers, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-hander has compiled a 44-35 record with 37 saves, a 4.11 ERA and 833 strikeouts (850 innings) in 541 games, 55 starts. Over his 486 career relief appearances, he is 30-16 with a 3.17 ERA, with a .211 opponent batting average.

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