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Padres' Qualls hopes to put injuries behind him

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP)

Padres reliever Chad Qualls knows he rushed his return to the field in 2010, and the result was the worst season of his career.

Coming off season-ending knee surgery in September 2009, Qualls ignored the fact that his left knee wasn't strong enough physically to handle the rigors of pitching. He pushed through the pain and rushed the recovery in order to get back on the field.

The knee eventually strengthened during the season, but not before he developed some bad mecfhanics. He combined to go 3-4 with a 7.32 ERA in 70 games for Arizona and Tampa Bay.

Now, after signing a one-year deal worth $2.55 million with San Diego, Qualls hopes to return to the form that once made him a sought-after reliever.

''You look back on it now and I probably should have taken more time off, but I kept telling myself I was healthy,'' Qualls said. ''I was not really able to use that leg and drive toward the plate. ... It was kind of a battle all year just fighting myself.''

Qualls said he did some exercises in the offseason to ensure that he was at full strength.

''I really dedicated myself this offseason strength-wise to getting back to where I am if not beyond where I normally am,'' he said.

If Qualls returns to the form that helped him to 51 saves and a 3.32 ERA from 2004-09, he should provide a Padres' bullpen that lost several key pitchers a big boost.

San Diego traded away Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb, pitchers who combined for 113 appearances last season, to get outfielder Cameron Maybin from the Florida Marlins.

Even though the Padres retained late-innings specialists Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams, Heath Bell and Joe Thatcher, Qualls feels he can make an impact.

''I know all their horses were coming back this year but that didn't bother me,'' Qualls said. ''I just wanted to go somewhere where I'd feel comfortable. I'm comfortable being in the National League West. I just wanted to come back here and get back to me being me.''

Tagged: Padres, Marlins, Chad Qualls

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