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Hitchcock to warm up in minors

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Padres acquired right-hander Blaine Neal from the Florida Marlins on Saturday for right-handed pitcher Ben Howard.

The Padres also optioned left-hander Sterling Hitchcock to Class
A Lake Elsinore so he can get in some work before his spot in the
rotation comes up. Hitchcock, the No. 5 starter, won't be needed
until April 17 at home against Arizona.

Neal, 1-0 with a 4.82 ERA in eight spring games, spent most of
the 2003 season with Florida's Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque,
going 3-2 with a 2.33 ERA. He appeared in 18 games for the Marlins
last season, going 0-0 with an 8.14 ERA. Neal was assigned to
Triple-A Portland.

Howard, 1-1 with a 16.20 ERA in four spring games, made six
starts for San Diego last season, going 1-3 with a 3.63 ERA. He
spent the remainder of the year at Portland, where he was 7-9 with
a 4.55 ERA.