PHOENIX — Leading the major leagues in 1986 suspensions, the new role model of the Oakland A's rolled into camp Tuesday, 11 days after it opened.
Joaquin Andujar a role model?
Those are the words A's General Manager Sandy Alderson used as he reflected on the December trade that brought the talented and temperamental pitcher from the St. Louis Cardinals for catcher Mike Heath and pitcher Tim Conroy.
Alderson said he has already asked Andujar to assume a leadership role with a young pitching staff. He also expects that young staff to benefit from the relationship and experience, gaining what Alderson called an overall toughening.
Alderson obviously subscribes to the belief, Andujar's own, that the pitcher is one tough Dominican.
But first, the suspensions. Andujar faces a pair.
Commissioner Peter Ueberroth suspended Andujar for the first 10 days of the 1986 season because of his seemingly uncontrolled run-in with umpire Don Denkinger in Game 7 of the World Series.
Andujar said Tuesday that he will apologize to Denkinger at their next meeting, which ought to be Saturday, when Denkinger is scheduled to work the A's exhibition opener.
The A's will open the regular season April 7, and Andujar will be eligible to pitch April 18 at Seattle. Manager Jackie Moore said he will use him as soon as he is available. Andujar said he will be ready, that he was born ready.
Andujar drew his second suspension last Friday. He was one of seven players suspended for the 1986 season by Ueberroth, citing his own investigation and the testimony during last summer's Pittsburgh drug trials.
Andujar must donate $127,000, a 10th of his 1986 salary, to an approved drug program, agree to random testing for the rest of his career and give 100 hours to community service each of the next two years if he wants to pitch in 1986.
He refused to discuss that suspension during an impromptu press conference after his first workout with the A's Tuesday. He spoke optimistically about his 1986 hopes, however, making it seem obvious that he will accept the stipulations--though perhaps under protest.
Only Andujar, of the seven players who drew Ueberroth's stiffest penalties, did not testify in Pittsburgh. Former St. Louis teammates Lonnie Smith and Keith Hernandez testified that they had used cocaine with Andujar and that he had helped them acquire it.
Randy Hendricks, one of three brothers who represent Andujar, said in a phone interview from his Houston office that the year's suspension, even though Andujar wasn't asked to testify, represented "selective enforcement" by Ueberroth. Hendricks said that although Andujar would probably accept the stipulations, he might also register a protest, either through a grievance or public statement.
"Joaquin realizes that something has to be done about it as soon as possible," Alderson said Tuesday. "Based on our conversations with Joaquin and his agent and our own sense of the situation, we fully expect him to pitch in '86."
Alderson also said that he fully expects Andujar to make a substantial difference in the Oakland pitching staff, not only in terms of his own ability but also in terms of his impact on the other players.
"He's a tough competitor who pitches every four days and hates to come out of a game, qualities that many of our young pitchers don't have or need to develop," Alderson said.
Chris Codiroli, pitching 226 innings, led an Oakland staff that was last in the American League with only 10 complete games last year. No other A's pitcher worked more than 151 innings.
This year, the 26-year-old Codiroli would otherwise have been the senior member of a rotation expected to include Tim Birtsas, 25, Eric Plunk, 22, and Jose Rijo, 20. Andujar is 33.
Alderson said that some of the young pitchers have been satisfied going six innings but now may be inspired to pitch more aggressively, effectively and longer. He said Andujar was very positive in regard to the suggestion that he work with the young pitchers, though Andujar, who patiently and often jokingly fielded all of the media questions, said:
"I'm not going to be a leader, I'm not going to be anything. I have to be the same Joaquin Andujar who won 21 games last year."
He later amended that, saying that he had helped the young Cardinals and would be happy to help here.
"No more five or six innings," he said. "We want them to pitch nine innings every time.
"I told them (in St. Louis) you have to force yourself. If your arm is sore, sometimes you have to push yourself a little more.
"When you're young, you don't have the experience. You need someone to talk to, to show you the right way."
A cynic might suggest that physically attacking an umpire or destroying a toilet with a bat or snubbing the All-Star game simply because you're not going to be the starting pitcher isn't really the right way.
The A's, of course, hope that if, in no other way, Andujar will provide stability with his consistency on the mound, but there is concern in that, too.