CHICAGO — Larry Bowa, Padre manager, has looked the other way for weeks, but he said Saturday that it's time to take first baseman Steve Garvey out of the lineup for good.
So here come the sweeping changes: John Kruk and Carmelo Martinez will platoon at first; Tim Flannery and Randy Ready will platoon at third, and Kevin Mitchell will move from third to left field.
Ask for an explanation and Bowa will point to the National League West standings, where it says the Padres--after Saturday's 7-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs--are in last place with a 6-19 record.
Bowa says it isn't all Garvey's fault, but Garvey is 38 and is batting all of .186. Bowa says he would rather go with 25-year-olds who bat .186. He also says he's sick of watching listless baseball, and he hopes moving Ready and Flannery--two hyper kind of guys--into the lineup will generate some life.
Meanwhile, Mitchell has been griping about playing third. So Bowa is accommodating him, in the hope that Mitchell's bat will come alive with less stress. Playing third every day had depressed Mitchell, Bowa said.
After making his announcement, Bowa said, "Listen, the point I'm making is that it's not all Garvey's fault. But because of his age, I figure let's go with it."
Garvey took it well.
"If I rant and rave," Garvey said, "it would be easy for the kids (on the Padres) to see that and say, 'Look, Garv's down. We're really in trouble now.' "
So, instead, he said what he always says. "That's the manager's discretion. Whatever he calls on me to do, I'll be ready to do. . . . I'm here to do anything I can to help him (Bowa). I understand his position. We've been contemporaries and friends for years. But no one's more confident than I am that I will contribute again. I just can't give you the time and date."
It wasn't Saturday. Garvey went 0 for 4, including a weak fly to right field with a runner on third and two out in the fourth inning. His current statistics: 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position with two out, 3 for 13 (three RBIs) with runners in scoring position with less than two out, 2 for 6 with runners on third with less than two out. Overall, he's 3 for 20 with five RBIs with runners in scoring position.
"He's not swinging the bat that good," Bowa said of Garvey, who also is 1 for his last 12. "Sheesh. That (fourth-inning at-bat) was horrible."
Also, with the Padres leading by a run with two out in the seventh, Garvey let Dave Martinez's hard ground ball spin by him. It wasn't ruled an error, but Garvey conceded that he needed to knock the ball down in that situation. The Cubs ended up scoring four runs that inning.
"That was the game," Bowa said.
But Kruk and Martinez aren't exactly head and shoulders above Garvey right now. Kruk is 0 for his last 15, and Martinez is 3 for his last 28 with no RBIs, and 4 for 15 with three RBIs with runners in scoring position. No one on the team--other than right fielder Tony Gwynn (8 for 20 with runners in scoring position)--is hitting well. In 25 games, the Padres do not have one sacrifice-fly RBI.
"I'd never think about this (change) if we were playing decent baseball," Bowa said. "I mean, us being buried like we are now, we've got to envision what happens down the road. And that's not a rap, but I don't think Steve fits in with our future plans. . . . Of course, you're talking about a Hall of Fame player here. This is tough.
"Against real tough lefties, we could still let Garvey start some games, but otherwise, we'll pinch-hit him. I'm sure he's seen this coming. . . . Martinez has proven that when he does play every day, he can put the numbers up (a team-high 21 homers in 1985). And Kruk . . . people tell me when he's in a groove, he hits lefties as well as righties."
Bowa also said that Jack McKeon, Padre general manager, is working on several trades. One could send Kruk and a pitcher--perhaps Andy Hawkins or Dave Dravecky--to Cincinnati for Tracy Jones, Nick Esasky (both outfielders/first basemen) and a minor league pitcher. The Padres, who have hit only 12 home runs this year, need power--which Jones and Esasky could provide.
"If Jack makes a deal, Mitchell could easily be back at third," Bowa said.
There's also the chance of bringing up some minor leaguers. Triple-A outfielder Randell Byers "is tearing up the PCL (Pacific Coast League)," Bowa said. And Shawn Abner, another Las Vegas Star outfielder, is batting well over .300. By June or July, Bowa said, both could be in the big leagues.
Also, Las Vegas pitcher Ray Hayward, a left-hander, is 3-0, and Bowa said he might join the Padres soon.
The Padres can't wait for 1988?
"Right," Bowa said.