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06/02/05 9:44 PM ET

Hoffman named NL Pitcher of the Month

Reliever earns first monthly award of superlative career

SAN DIEGO -- Padres manager Bruce Bochy was amazed to learn that Trevor Hoffman was awarded the first National League Pitcher of the Month award of his career for a memorable May.

"I figured he'd have won it one of those months in '98 when he had 53 saves," Bochy said of the man who has been his closer for all 11 seasons of his managerial run. "That is surprising."

Hoffman was 12-for-12 in saves with an 0.82 ERA for the 22-6 Padres in May, becoming the third closer in Major League history to reach 400 saves during the month. He also earned the May Rolaids Relief Man Award, the sixth time he has claimed that honor.

Hoffman came into Thursday night's game against the Cubs at PETCO Park tied for the Major League lead with 16 saves, carrying a 2.89 ERA through 20 games. With 409 saves in his career, he trails only Lee Smith (478) and John Franco (424) on the all-time list.

Expressing his appreciation for the award, adding, as always, "It's all about the team here," Hoffman took off for his customary pre-game preparations. At 37, he remains one of the hardest-working, best-conditioned athletes in the game.

"Everybody here has so much respect for Trevor, his work ethic, the way he goes about his business," Bochy said. "He's a loose guy, but serious in the way he goes about his routine. He's never backed off his routine and preparation."

With the inevitable wear and tear, and shoulder surgery in February 2003, Hoffman has continued to evolve as a pitcher. A flamethrower after making the early-career transition from shortstop to the mound, he has become more dependent on his changeup, using the fastball and breaking ball to set up his out pitch.

Bochy believes that Hoffman is about as good as he's ever been in his 13 seasons.

"I'd say he's right up there, yeah," the manager said. "He still has great command of the fastball and changeup, and he's using the breaking ball more. I'd say he's just as good as in the past. It's hard to repeat what he did in '98. If he's not there, he's real close."

In '98, Hoffman registered 53 saves and had a 1.48 ERA in 66 appearances for the National League champion Padres. The team was 62-4 when he pitched and did not lose a game that he entered with a lead.

Veteran Chris Hammond joined the Padres' bullpen this season as a free agent and has also joined the huge Hoffman fan club. Bochy often categorizes his closer as one of the two greatest Padres, alongside former teammate Tony Gwynn.

"The thing I like about him," Hammond said, "is no matter if he blows a game or saves a game, he's the same guy. You can't tell how good he's pitching by how he acts."

When he heard this was Hoffman's first NL Pitcher of the Month award, Hammond shared Bochy's reaction -- complete surprise.

"That's what I said when I saw Trevor," Hammond said. "This is the first one? He just grinned."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.