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THE ROOKIES : Padres Are Giving the Class of '86 a Chance This Year, and Maybe Next

September 30, 1986|DANIEL WEINTRAUB | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Jimmy Jones started out with a flash of brilliance, but in his second start he looked more like a flash in the pan.

Gary Green has played shortstop like Mark Belanger, but he's hit like Enzo Hernandez.

Randy Asadoor is batting close to 400, but his fielding percentage is only slightly higher.

And so it goes with the Class of '86. The best of the Pacific Coast League champion Las Vegas Stars have invaded San Diego. For the past two weeks--hardly the blink of an eye as baseball seasons go--they have dazzled, thrilled, amused and, at times, disappointed the local faithful.

Since Manager Steve Boros all but handed over the rest of the season to a bunch of kids barely old enough to drink a beer--outside the clubhouse, of course--the Padres are 5-8. That's only a tad worse than what Boros was able to squeeze from his regulars during the season's first five months.

But before you rush out and buy season tickets for 1987 with hopes of seeing them with the Padres, be advised. Only a couple of the Starlets figure to be with the Padres next season.

Of the eight players the Padres called up this month for their first taste of major league action, only catcher Benito Santiago is considered by Boros complete enough to win a job in the majors today. A few others--Green, Asadoor, maybe Jones--might have a shot, but it would be a long shot.

Here's a rundown on the eight, starting with position players:

Benito Santiago. A native of Ponce, Puerto Rico, Santiago, 21, is, as Boros said, "at the head of the class."

Santiago's hitting has cooled off after a strong start. He's batting .273, with two home runs and five runs batted in. His first homer was a 10th-inning hit to beat the Giants on Sept. 17.

Santiago's strength is supposed to be his fielding, and he has been sharp defensively. He's often described as a Tony Pena-type catcher and, like Pena, Santiago loves to throw the ball. He will whip it to any base at any time. In the eighth inning of one close game in Atlanta, Santiago picked Ken Oberkfell off second, and he made the snap throw without even standing up.

But Santiago also has lacked concentration at times, Boros said. In the game he won with his first home run, Santiago blew a rundown play by chasing a runner all the way back to third. If Santiago had stopped and thrown, he would have had an easy out. Santiago also has made two errors.

"He's always had a strong arm, but lately he's been rushing his throws," Boros said Sunday. "He's been a little erratic."

Still, Boros said Santiago has played well enough to be given "first crack" at the starting catching job in the spring, even if Terry Kennedy is still with the club.

Gary Green. Green, 6-feet 3-inches, 175-pounds, moves like former Oriole shortstop Mark Belanger. He has great range and a sound throwing arm. In 12 games, Green has yet to make an error.

Green, 24, from Oklahoma State who was a member the 1984 U.S. Olympic baseball team, was drafted by the Padres in 1984 on the strength of his defense.

"Even when we drafted him we said, hey, he can play in the big leagues right now" because of his fielding, said Tom Romenesko, the Padres' minor league director. But can he hit?

In Beaumont in 1985, his first year in pro ball, Green hit .257 against Double-A pitchers. In Las Vegas this year, he hit .249. In 33 major league at-bats, Green has a .212 average.

"There's no question Green can be good enough to do the job defensively," Boros said. "But the way we scored runs this year, we've got to have a little offense from our shortstop position, too. We're not the kind of club like the New York Mets, who can carry a Rafael Santana as a shortstop who's hitting .190-something."

Green knows he will have to hit, and he's growing tired of people questioning his ability to do so. During the off-season, he plans to work with Padre trainer Dick Dent to build up strength. He does not want to be tagged with the "all-field-no hit" label at such a young age.

"It's not as much fun if you're not hitting," Green said. "It doesn't matter how well you play in the field."

Green added that there can be a big difference between minor league records and major league performance.

"Nobody thought Ozzie Smith would ever hit, and he's hitting .280," Green said.

Randy Asadoor. Randy Who? He wasn't even the starting third baseman at the end of the season for Las Vegas, and here he is tearing up the National League. He's hitting .385 through 10 games.

"Randy's always been a streak hitter, and he's in a positive streak right now," Romenesko said.

Even Asadoor, 23, admits that his high average is a bit misleading.

"My first six or seven hits were seeing-eye type hits," he said. "I wasn't stinging the ball. I was getting a lot of ground balls through the infield and a lot of bloopers over the infield. I was lucky to get off to a decent start. Since then, I've felt good and I've started to drive the ball a little better."

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