SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Reliever Rudy Seanez, who hasn't pitched in the big leagues since having ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow last June 29, joined the San Diego Padres on Thursday.

Seanez's contract was purchased from Class A Lake Elsinore, where the 32-year-old was 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in seven games out of the bullpen.

Seanez signed a minor league contract in February after spending the last three seasons with Atlanta. He pitched in three games for the Padres in 1993. He is 16-11 with a 4.59 ERA and 10 saves in nine major league seasons with Cleveland, San Diego, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Padres moved left-hander Sterling Hitchcock from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. Hitchcock, who underwent ligament replacement surgery three weeks earlier than Seanez, continues his rehabilitation. He was expected back sometime in May, but the Padres are no longer putting a date on his return.

The Padres also reinstated right-hander Carlton Loewer from the 60-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Portland, optioned lefty Jimmy Osting to Double-A Mobile, and outrighted lefty Dave Maurer and infielder Adam Riggs to Portland.

Loewer was obtained from Philadelphia with Adam Eaton and Steve Montgomery for Andy Ashby in November 1999, but has yet to pitch for the Padres.

He broke his lower left leg and dislocated his ankle in a hunting accident in January 2000, then developed shoulder problems that required season-ending surgery last July.