SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Weighted down by two huge shoulder bags, Kirk McCaskill walked back into the Angel clubhouse Wednesday morning and faced the welcoming committee.
Wally Joyner, McCaskill's former partner-in-contract-dispute, held out two fingers and slapped hands with the pitcher--giving him two. Other teammates rose to their feet for a round of mock applause.
Then the Angel pitchers made their own special presentation. Moments earlier, one of them had doctored one of McCaskill's jerseys with white adhesive tape and hung it in McCaskill's locker. The tape formed a circle across the chest of the jersey with a slash through it, a takeoff on the universal symbol meaning no smoking, no U-turn, no whatever.
In this case, it was no Kirk.
"Who would do something like that?" Don Sutton wondered, feigning ignorance. "You know, Chuck Finley's the kind of guy who would do something like that," he said, looking at McCaskill.
Finley, indeed the perpetrator, had already sneaked out of the locker room.
McCaskill laughed. Walking in certainly made for a better time than walking out.
Ending a six-day holdout and breaking the silence he had maintained since leaving camp, McCaskill admitted that he had acted emotionally when talks broke off last Thursday, but also defended those actions.
"I didn't (walk out) to make a point or win anything," McCaskill said. "I reacted and did something for my own sake.
"I'll stand by it. If the same circumstances presented themselves again, I'd do the same thing. . . . To me, it looked like I was given an ultimatum other players didn't get. My No. 1 priority was to pitch this season totally free and clear. If I had accepted it, I would not have been free and clear mentally."
Last Thursday, General Manager Mike Port gave McCaskill the choice of signing for $232,000 or being automatically renewed at $220,000. Angered over what he perceived as a threat by Port, McCaskill walked out.
It took a different presentation by Port, for the same $232,000, to bring McCaskill back this week.
"Last Thursday, I was presented with a half-hour ultimatum," McCaskill said. "That would be the truth. That's how much time I had.
"I'm just glad we gave it more time and talked about it again. Mike came back with a different presentation. He just offered me a new contract. I didn't see any punitive action if I didn't sign the contract."
In other words, Port's new proposal was just a straight contract figure, with no possible salary cut attached if McCaskill didn't sign.
McCaskill said he was prepared to sit out the year--or longer--if necessary.
"I was presented with one of two choices," he said. "I could play baseball or I could quit baseball. I could've gone back to school, get my degree.
"I don't derive happiness from the dollar bill. Granted, we're talking about a lot of money, but I could be happy not making a lot of money. I turned down a $300,000 hockey contract to play baseball for $500 a month. I could have quit.
"But I didn't want someone else telling me I couldn't play baseball. I want to find out how good a pitcher I can be. For my family's sake, my teammates' sake and Gene Mauch's sake, I wanted to play."
McCaskill was asked if he had gained anything by his walkout.
"Yes. I gained a peace of mind. I gained a little knowledge," he said. "I see that baseball has changed. I saw the movie 'Angel Heart' the other night and there's a line by Robert DeNiro, 'The future isn't what it used to be.' Boy, no kidding. That one made me think."
Angel Notes Brian Downing hit two home runs, Wally Joyner added another and the Angels totaled 13 hits and 7 runs but, once again, the Angels lost--8-7 to the San Francisco Giants Wednesday--to fall to 1-5 in spring games. The Angels blew a 7-2 lead when relief pitchers Gary Lucas and DeWayne Buice gave up three-run homers to Jeff Leonard and Matt Williams, respectively, in the sixth and seventh innings. . . . Lucas, making his first appearance of the spring, allowed four hits in two innings. He was originally scheduled to pitch three. "He was supposed to go through the lineup once but it's too early for that," Manager Gene Mauch said. Translation: Mauch is taking no chances with Lucas' problem back, which went out on him this time last year.