MESA, Ariz. — With LaMarr Hoyt on the mend, Ed Wojna is on the mound as the San Diego Padres' fifth starter.
He had a similar opportunity last season when the Padres called him up from Triple-A in midseason, and, he didn't cope real well.
"I got kind of nervous," he said.
But you live and learn.
"Now, I'm more relaxed," he said.
Fortunately for him--and unfortunately for Hoyt--Wojna has this second chance. Until Hoyt comes back from a rehabilitation center, Wojna will be given every opportunity to be his replacement. Tuesday, Wojna started against the Chicago Cubs here in an 8-4 San Diego win, and he threw too much like he did last season.
He started off well, yielding only one hit through two innings, but he walked Gary Matthews on four pitches in the third and came a little undone before he finally got done with the inning.
He started getting behind hitters (critics, namely Manager Steve Boros, say that's his biggest problem), and the Cubs ended up scoring three times.
Wojna's last name ought to be changed to Wow-jna, though. Everybody who watches him throw usually says "Wow! Great stuff." He's been hearing that since Little League, but he says it's time for him to either put up or for everyone else to shut up.
"Oh, I hear it," he said Tuesday. "They always say 'Wow! Good movement on his pitches.' But they also say 'Wow! If he could only throw strikes and challenge hitters.' The thing people always say about me is that I give hitters too much credit and try to hit the black of the plate (the corners.)"
And in the meantime, he has control problems. Boros said Tuesday: "Eddie gets behind too much and has to come in with something."
Something that usually gets hit.
So, this spring, Wojna must spring forward.
"I'm 25 now," he said. "I'm not getting any younger. This is when you come to the point in your career and say: 'This is the turning point.'
"Either I'll come into my own and handle the big league atmosphere or they'll say: 'He's just not ready yet.' And you have to wonder how long they'll be willing to say 'He's not ready yet' and when they'll eventually say: 'He'll never be ready'? So this (spring) is very important."
Ever wonder what kind of stuff ballplayers talk about around the batting cage?
Catcher Terry Kennedy was saying to one of the Chicago Cubs Tuesday: "I'm so tired of trying to figure myself out. Why can't I hit like I used to?"
And ever wonder what happens in the dugout when a teammate hits a home run? Kennedy proceeded to hit a homer on Tuesday, and when the ball left his bat, teammate Tim Flannery said: "Goodby Mr. Spaulding!"
And ever wonder what it's like to be a third base coach? Jack Krol has replaced Ozzie Virgil as this year's Padre third base coach, and he says he's expecting jitters on opening day.
"But everybody's nervous on opening day," Krol said. "Everybody gets a twinge. When that national anthem starts, you get going with the nerves. But after the first pitch, it leaves."
Third baseman Randy Asador, a non-roster player, led the Padres' "B" team to a victory over the Oakland A's on Tuesday. His home run was the game winner.
And once that game was over, Asador came over to Mesa for the "A" game with the Cubs. In his first at-bat, he singled.
"I've been nervous in A games," said Asador, 23. "Mainly because I come in and get maybe one at-bat. In the B games, they've been putting me in for the whole game, and seeing a lot of live pitching helps. I'm happy. They're definitely giving me a look, and that's all I ask."
Outfielder Bobby Brown, battling for one of the final roster spots, reached base four times (one walk, two hits and a catcher's interference) Tuesday and made a running, over-the-shoulder catch.
"I think he'll be a little more relaxed now," Boros said. "He's in a fight for a job."
Add job fight: Cub third baseman Ron Cey, 38, is trying to hold on as a starter. On Tuesday, though, he made two errors in one inning. One came on a ground ball hit by Garry Templeton. He let it get by him. The other came when catcher Jody Davis tried picking off the Padres' Jerry Royster at third base. Davis threw, but Cey paid little attention and was standing about eight feet behind the base. The ball landed at his feet, got by him, and Royster scored.
Add errors: The Cubs committed six of them Tuesday. Five of the Padre runs were unearned.
Every time the Padres visit a new town, local reporters ask the players if they'll miss former manager Dick Williams.
Terry Kennedy told the Arizona Republic on Tuesday: ". . . For someone who's had so much success as Dick has, he was the most insecure person I've ever seen. For some reason, he hated players. I wish I could understand it."
Padre general manager Jack McKeon was seen writing furiously during Tuesday's game. Was he taking notes on the competition? No. He was making his predictions for the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament.
The Padres, 3-2 in Cactus League play, meet the Oakland A's today. It's will be Joaquin Andujar's first start with Oakland. And it will be Steve Boros' first time managing against his former team.
"Oh, I'm not concerned about winning," said Boros, who managed the A's in 1983 and part of 1984. "I'll play a lot of people."