Branyan’s Power Appeals To Padres

Making a charge in the National League West, the Padres decided to bolster their bench with a trade on Thursday. San Diego acquired Russell Branyan from the Devil Rays in exchange for Class A righthander Evan Meek and either a player to be named or cash.

The 30-year-old Branyan’s calling card always has been his light-tower power, and he’ll draw some walks when teams try to pitch around him. But he hasn’t done enough other things well to hold down an everyday job. He strikes out in bunches and doesn’t hit for average, and his lack of speed, range and footwork limit him on the basepaths and in the field. He’s hitting .201/.286/.473 with 12 homers and 27 RBIs in 64 games this year, and he’ll likely serve the Padres as a pinch-hitter and as a backup on the outfield and infield corners. Branyan is making $800,000 this season and will become a free agent afterward. He’s a lifetime .229/.323/.479 hitter with 105 homers and 265 RBIs in 600 games.

The Twins drafted Meek in the 11th round out of a Washington high school in 2002 and signed him the following spring after he spent a season at Bellevue (Wash.) CC. When his control evaporated in 2005’"he had 36 walks in 18 innings at low Class A Beloit’"he drew his release and signed with the Padres after a private workout. Meek, 23, has thrown more strikes this spring at high Class A Lake Elsinore. In 26 games (25 starts), he has gone 6-6, 4.98 with a 113-62 K-BB ratio, .288 opponent average and five homers allowed in 119 innings. His best pitch is a fastball that has been clocked as high as 97 mph, but he still has plenty of work to do with his control and secondary pitches, which include a power curveball.

September 15 update: The Devil Rays received righthander Dale Thayer to complete the trade. Thayer, 25, signed out of Chico State as a nondrafted free agent in 2002. His best pitch is a slider, and he sets it up with an average fastball. He spent most of 2006 at Double-A Mobile, leading the Southern League with 27 saves, and made two appearances at Triple-A Portland. He went 7-4, 2.50 in 59 outings between the two stops, with a 61-23 K-BB ratio, .241 opponent average and four homers allowed in 68 innings.

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