Pitcher attending to personal problem

Updated: March 15, 2004, 9:40 PM ET

PEORIA, Ariz. -- San Diego Padres reliever Rod Beck will be out indefinitely while he deals with personal problems and probably won't be ready by opening day.

Beck hasn't been in camp for several days and hasn't pitched in a spring training game. The last time anyone with the team heard from him was Wednesday, when manager Bruce Bochy spoke with him by phone.

"He said that he really needed to take care of some personal issues and if he could possibly do it, he'd try to get back on schedule as soon as he can," Bochy said Monday. "Now, it's going to take a little bit longer than he or us had anticipated."

General manager Kevin Towers said he couldn't discuss Beck's problems other than to say it "possibly" was health-related. Beck's wife, Stacey, answered the phone at their Phoenix-area home on Monday and said her husband wasn't in. She refused further comment.

"I'm not 100 percent sure what all the issues are," Towers said. "I'm just somewhat aware of what's going on. It puts us in a tough spot because we want to be as candid as possible, but with respect to things that are going on, I want to be as confidential as I can with the information that I have."

The easygoing Beck, popular with teammates and fans, converted all 20 save chances last year after being signed as a free agent in June to solidify a struggling bullpen that was missing All-Star closer Trevor Hoffman.

Hoffman returned in September, and Beck, who has 286 career saves, re-signed in December to serve as a setup man.

The Padres have several options after Towers strengthened the bullpen in the offseason, but he said it wouldn't be as good without the 35-year-old Beck. Other additions were Antonio Osuna and Akinori Otsuka, who had a successful career in Japan. Holdovers include Jay Witasick and Scott Linebrink.

"We wanted that to be the strength of our club," Towers said. "Sitting here today knowing that it's probably doubtful that he'll start the season with us, it's probably not as good, based on what he did for us last year.

"I'm still hopeful and optimistic that if he's not here to start the season, he'll be back shortly," Towers said.

Beck re-signed for $1.75 million, with a chance for another $1 million in incentives, a nice raise from the $400,000 he made last year.

He said at the beginning of spring training that he was comfortable serving as a setup man for Hoffman, who's fifth on the career list with 352 saves.

"I'd like to be the closer, but I didn't earn that," Beck said in February. "This is San Diego. This is Trevor time. Ultimately, I want to win the World Series, and we're better off with Trevor doing what he does, and I think we're better off with me doing what I do. If everybody stays healthy, we've got a good shot at winning this division and going somewhere."

Beck, one of baseball's dominant closers in the mid-1990s, missed the 2002 season while recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery. He started the 2003 season at Triple-A Iowa.

While in Des Moines, Beck lived in his Winnebago parked just beyond the outfield fence. Fans would drop by for autographs and stay for a beer, and Beck became a folk hero.

The Padres signed him on June 2.