SAN DIEGO (AP) -Jim Edmonds is returning to Southern California after eight seasons in the Midwest, eager to prove he's healthy and still an everyday player.
He'll get that chance starting March 31 when he takes his position in Petco Park's spacious center field.
The San Diego Padres obtained the 37-year-old Edmonds and $2 million on Saturday from the Cardinals in exchange for minor league third baseman David Freese, who grew up in a St. Louis suburb.
``I'm kind of shocked but excited because I get to be in Southern California next to my family and play for a contending team in a beautiful ballpark,'' Edmonds said during a conference call from his offseason home in Irvine.
Although the Padres had targeted Edmonds since the end of the season, the deal came about quickly after the agent for Mike Cameron broke off talks on Friday.
``It just happened to be a perfect fit,'' Edmonds said.
``We're certainly a lot better off today than we were yesterday,'' said Padres general manager Kevin Towers, who finally landed an outfielder after being spurned by three others in less than a week. ``Our biggest concern was having a solid defender in center field. Jimmy's one of the better ones in the game, a Gold Glover, and should be able to cover the gaps.''
Edmonds grew up in Diamond Bar in Los Angeles County and was drafted by the Angels in 1988. He played for the Angels from late in the 1993 season until being traded to St. Louis just before the 2000 season.
After the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series, the four-time All-Star had operations on his right shoulder and left toe. He batted just .222 in April and finished batting .252 with 12 homers and 53 RBIs - his lowest totals since 1999 with the Angels.
An eight-time Gold Glove winner, Edmonds said he feels ``100 percent for the first time in a while. This is a great opportunity to go out every day and show that I'm still a high-caliber major league player.''
Towers said he spoke with several people about Edmonds, including Walt Jocketty, who was fired as Cardinals GM after the season.
``Certainly there are no guarantees, but we felt it was a risk worth taking,'' Towers said. ``He's certainly done his damage against us over the years in postseason play.''
Edmonds said he's not concerned with the size of Petco Park's outfield, adding that he thinks it has one of the best surfaces in the majors.
``I just love playing there and think it's going to be a great opportunity for me,'' said Edmonds, who helped the Cardinals eliminate the Padres in the first round of the playoffs in 2005 and '06.
Edmonds said he and his agent approached the Cardinals' front office after hearing talk that he'd be moved to right field or have reduced playing time in center.
``Basically, the feedback wasn't so great, and they couldn't guarantee anything,'' he said. ``We just decided maybe it was time for me to move on.''
Towers said the Cardinals let it be known that if they got the prospect they wanted, they'd help out with cash to help offset Edmonds' $8 million salary in 2008, the final year of his contract.
``Jim provided Cardinals fans with some of the most memorable moments in Cardinals history during his career in St. Louis,'' Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement. ``He will be remembered not only for his all-around great play, but also his many contributions to the St. Louis community.''
Edmonds appeared in the postseason six times with the Cardinals, including two World Series.
He recently opened a restaurant about a mile from Busch Stadium.
``It's just a job and friendships will be forever,'' Edmonds said about leaving St. Louis. ``I can't say enough about my opportunity in St. Louis. It's been the best section of my professional life.''
He said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa left a farewell message on his phone.
Towers said talks to bring back Cameron fell apart over money.
Unlike Cameron, Edmonds will be available in April. Cameron is suspended for the first 25 games of 2008 after testing positive a second time for a banned stimulant.
Last weekend, left fielder Milton Bradley accepted a one-year deal from the Texas Rangers worth approximately $5 million, or about $1 million more than the Padres offered to bring him back.
Plus, the Padres lost out in the bidding for Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who signed with the Chicago Cubs.
Edmonds ``is a guy that can change a game, not only offensively but defensively,'' said right fielder Brian Giles. ``Those players are hard to come by. I definitely think Jimmy will be able to help our team.''
Giles had microfracture surgery in October but said he should be ready by opening day.
As of now, Scott Hairston is San Diego's left fielder. The Padres have been speaking with free agent Geoff Jenkins. If they get Jenkins, all three outfielders would be lefties.
the 24-year-old Freese batted .302 with 17 homers and 96 RBIs with Single-A Lake Elsinore. He graduated from Lafayette High in Wildwood, just outside of St. Louis.
AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis contributed to this report.

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