PHOENIX — Jimmy Jones was a freshman in high school when a scout told his parents he had the potential to become a major league baseball player.
Since that day seven years ago, Jones has applied himself to making the scout's prophecy a reality. Jones said he would play for free, but added he'd take a million bucks someday if they are willing to give it to him.
But there are still some long bus rides and greasy hamburgers to be endured before the 20-year-old right-hander is called upon to pitch for the Padres.
Jones, who is 6-foot 2-inch, 175 pounds, was invited to take part in spring training this year, and the experience has been a valuable one, if only to convince him that guys like Goose Gossage and Steve Garvey are mortal beings, too.
"It spoils you to get a taste of life up here," Jones said. "I know I've got to pay my dues, and I'll be going back down (to the minors) this year.
"But it's been a good lesson for me seeing how down to earth a guy like the Goose is. He tells me just to keep cool. It's how you are from the neck up that is so important in this game."
Jones is one of a group of promising young pitchers that also includes Bob Patterson, Gene Walter, Ed Wojna and Lance McCullers. But none of them is given much of a chance to make the club this spring.
Jones' development has been hampered by injuries he suffered each of the last two years.
Ironically, the date of each injury was July 3.
On that day in 1983, only his second year of organized ball, Jones injured his arm while breaking off a curve.
It was the first incidence of arm trouble in his young career, and the injury is healed now. There were still twinges of it last summer, when he tended to baby his arm on breaking pitches.
Jones was battling to overcome that problem when he tripped on a sprinkler while running in the outfield before a game in El Paso.
Torn ankle ligaments kept him out the remainder of the season.
Jones said his goal this spring, in addition to developing his curve, is to make the Triple-A roster (Las Vegas) and avoid a return to Double-A Beaumont in the Texas League.
"I think they'd only send me back to Beaumont if I fell on my face," Jones said.
The third overall player taken in the June 1982 free agent draft, Jones isn't expecting to fall on his face.
With a 7-2 record last year and an 18-13 career mark, Jones is about a year behind in his overall timetable of reaching the big leagues in four years. The injuries are to blame for the lag, he said.
"I'm still hoping to get there in the next couple of years, at least," Jones said.
In the meantime, he is reconciled to packing up his Walkman for some more of those taxing trips through minor league America.
Oakland's Dave Kingman hit a 430-foot homer off Keefe Cato and the A's sent the Padres to their fourth straight defeat, 6-2, Friday. A Padre bright spot was right-hander Andy Hawkins, who pitched four strong innings and allowed just one hit.
Steve Garvey singled in a run against his old teammate and nemesis, Don Sutton, who gave him a nice tip of the cap before the Garv stepped into the batter's box in the first inning. Garvey singled in another run in the third, raising his spring average to .625. A Sutton breaking ball hit him in the head last spring in a game at Sun City.
Friday morning, Garvey had a minor difference of opinion with a desk clerk as he was checking out of the hotel It was resolved by traveling secretary John Mattei.
"Step aside, let your future secretary of transportation handle it for you," Mattei said. Garvey, of course, is believed to harbor political aspirations.
After games in Yuma this weekend, the Padres return to Phoenix for seven games next week. . . . Approximately 900 tickets were still available Friday for today's game against the California Angels. Probable pitchers in today's A game are LaMarr Hoyt, Lance McCullers and Luis DeLeon. For the Angels it will be Ron Romanick, Doug Corbett and Stu Cliburn. . . . Utilityman Tim Flannery attended Friday's game in street clothes. He is recovering from a case of apparent food poisoning. He underwent tests for appendicitis a day earlier. . . . Steve Garvey and Padres President Ballard Smith will host a press conference today to discuss the team's participation in the Pace Center for Career Development, a nonprofit organization created to assist athletes moving into the business world.