PALM SPRINGS — Starting center fielder Stan Jefferson sprained his left ankle Monday, so why were Padre officials walking around saying, "Thank God"?
Because they thought he'd broken it.
Jefferson led off Monday's game against the Angels with a line drive base hit to left. He took a wide turn to round first, but his right foot slipped. He was off-balance as he tried touching the base and his foot hit the bag awkwardly.
He went down in a heap.
He tried crawling back to first, but he couldn't make it. Angel first baseman Wally Joyner made the tag.
"I tell you, I thought it was broken the way he was laying there," Padre Manager Larry Bowa said. "I didn't want to go look. I thought the bone was sticking out. I thought it was curtains."
Jefferson was carried off.
Fifteen minutes later, word was out that it was just a sprain.
"Some people's pain tolerance is different than others, I guess," Bowa said.
Jefferson was wearing sneakers and walking on the ankle by day's end. His status is day-to-day.
"I felt pain when it happened," he said. "I knew something was wrong. I was just hoping it was a nice minor sprain."
"I don't think I'll be out long," he said. "I tried to get back to the bag after I hurt it, but it was burning. There was a whole bunch of heat. Joyner had the ball, and I just gave up."
The Padres lost, 6-0, and Bowa kept them after school, so to speak.
He was upset that the team botched one relay play and that two pitchers were sloppy covering first base on ground balls to the right side.
Before the game was over, he had kicked over a water bucket and said: "Opening day is in six days, and we look like this?"
So he put the players through a 30-minute postgame workout. He had the pitchers work on covering first base, and he had the outfielders work on relays. Everybody ran sprints.
There still is no word on the fifth Padre starting pitcher. It will be either Ed Wojna or Jimmy Jones, but Bowa said he won't make an announcement until Friday.
Jones probably didn't help himself Monday. He started and went four innings, giving up four runs on eight hits and walking two with no strikeouts.
Wojna gave up three runs in five innings in his last start, so he appears to have the edge. Bowa had been counting on Jones to win the job, because Jones one-hit the Houston Astros last season. But Bowa hates it when Jones walks people.
"He threw 90 pitches in four innings today," Bowa said. "He threw 49 strikes and 41 balls. What did I think? I don't think he was as bad as he was the other day. I'm really neutral right now. I thought he'd pitch better than he did today."
Jones said: 'I'll stay until he (Bowa) says something. I've got to pitch better. I've got to pitch the way I can. Crud, the way I've been pitching, I don't deserve to be here."
Don Fehr, the executive director of the Major League Players Assn., met for an hour and a half with the Padre players Monday.
He emerged later to give his usual talk of how owners are unfairly cutting salaries and trying to eliminate free agency.
Among other things, Fehr said: "It's about money. They want to be OPEC. The owners want to institute a monopoly on player's salaries. It's not terribly difficult to figure out. You essentially have players (free agents) out there who are worth from $800,000 to $1.6 million (like the Expos are offering Tim Raines) to one team and nothing to anyone else. That can't happen except in a fixed marketplace."
Of a possible strike when the collective bargaining agreement expires in 1989, Fehr said: "If we don't have a free market by the end of this agreement, then I think you have the stage set for as significant a confrontation as you've ever had in professional sports."
Of salaries, he said: "Baseball income is as much higher than it was in 1975 as the salaries are higher than they were in '75. And George Argyros (the Seattle owner, who is the pending owner of the Padres) has been complaining bitterly for I don't know how many years that you can't make money in baseball. And he couldn't have bought the Padres fast enough."
Finally, Fehr said former Padre pitcher LaMarr Hoyt has a hearing scheduled in about two weeks, where his two grievances will be heard. The first grievance was filed against the Padres, who maintain they shouldn't have to pay Hoyt in 1987 because his recent involvement in drugs violated the moral clause of his contract. And the second grievance was filed against Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, who suspended Hoyt for the 1987 season because of his drug involvement.