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Padres, Trying to Forget Last Season, Want an Encore of 1984

February 24, 1986|TOM FRIEND | Times Staff Writer

YUMA — Nobody was named manager of the year, executive of the year, player of the year or rookie of the year.

The Padre highlight of 1985? Well, team president Ballard Smith was made a board member of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra Assn., which is nice.

But, really, the sound of bats meeting baseballs is music to everyone's ears here. The 1986 season is upon us, as Padre pitchers and catchers begin official workouts today. By Wednesday, the other players will join them in their quest to erase the memory that is 1985.

Remember the National League pennant of 1984? In 1985, the Padres had a penchant for the unspectacular. They played well early, were in first place by five games in July, but were behind the Dodgers by the All-Star break and never recovered. The reasons: Some said a lack of speed. Some said a lack of middle relief.

Mostly, it was a lack of incentive.

"We weren't as motivated," outfielder Tony Gwynn said.

But they say they are now. Many of the pitchers who report today have been body-building with trainer Dick Dent. Andy Hawkins, one of them, said: "After Dent's workouts, spring training is gonna be cake."

Dent took off for Yuma late last week, but he gave reliever Goose Gossage the key to the weight room. Gossage and a few of his buddies worked out on their own, a measurement of their desire.

The team basically remains the same. General Manager Jack McKeon tried to trade, but couldn't.

"Am I content with this team? I'm never content," McKeon said last week. "I'd like to improve it, but I have certain restrictions. Do I trade two front-line pitchers for a guy who supposedly can run? Two years ago, I took gambles on guys, but now that we've built a pretty good foundation, I've got to let our farm system improve the team rather than a series of wild trades. I'd weaken the ballclub with a lot of trades.

"Sure, I could make trades today if I wanted, but I can't afford to give up some of the players other teams want. And the players I want to trade are the players not many teams want. I can't put a deal together."

He has planned a trip to Florida this spring, just to scout a few players that interest him. And if he does trade, it'll probably happen in mid-March.

So who's new this season? Second baseman Leon Roberts, 22, has never played higher than double-A, but he will be given a chance to start. Dane Iorg, a World Series hero with Kansas City last October, has been brought in as a left-handed pinch hitter.

Who's old? Graig Nettles, 41, is back at third base, although he likely will platoon with Jerry Royster if Roberts can start at second. Steve Garvey, 37, is back at first base, coming off a good .281, 81 RBI season.

Also returning is the young outfield of Carmelo Martinez in left, Kevin McReynolds in center and Gwynn in right. Manager Dick Williams still hasn't had that heart-to-heart chat he was supposed to have with McReynolds and still isn't happy with McReynolds' defense. So, it's possible the Padres could trade for another center fielder and move McReynolds to left and Martinez to the bench (or possibly to third).

The team strengths: Shortstop Garry Templeton and the pitching.

Templeton had an all-star season in 1985, hitting .282.

And the starting rotation of LaMarr Hoyt, Andy Hawkins, Dave Dravecky, Eric Show and Mark Thurmond is among the league's elite, while not many can beat reliever Goose Gossage. And waiting behind Gossage are young relievers Lance McCullers, Gene Walter and Craig Lefferts.

Their pitches will be handled by catcher Terry Kennedy and his backup, Bruce Bochy.

Minor leaguers to watch are third baseman Randy Asador and outfielder John Kruk.

And everyone will be watching the manager, Williams, who supposedly was ready to quit in the off-season, but who is back for the final year of his contract. Privately, players weren't pleased, and one, who asked for anonymity, said: "It could be an explosive spring."

Williams, though, said: "I'm gonna be nicer," which also is music to everyone's ears here.

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