SAN DIEGO — The Padres' opening home stand of exhibition games against the Angels in Yuma, Ariz., will be canceled, according to sources within baseball. And if Padre pitchers had their say, there wouldn't be a spring training game until at least March 12.
Even though negotiators for baseball's players and owners will continue to meet through the weekend in New York, several sources who declined to be identified said Friday that it's too late to save the first four games in Yuma March 2-5. Yuma Mayor Bob Tippett said the lost series will cost the city about $2 million.
"Unfortunately, it's something we anticipated," Tippett said. "It's too bad, because we had the Saturday and Sunday games (March 3-4) sold out. We just hope it doesn't get any worse."
Although no one has provided a specific time frame for spring training to start after the two sides reach a collective bargaining agreement, several baseball officials said Friday that they have been advised it will take a minimum of 12 days after a settlement before games commence.
The commissioner's office has informed clubs that players will be allowed at least five days, but most likely a week, to report to camp once a settlement is reached. Then there's the matter of practice time before a game can be scheduled.
"The general rule of thumb is that they will be given 10 days of practice time before playing games," said Jack McKeon, Padre manager and vice president/baseball operations. "That could be shortened by a couple of days, but that's about it."
The Park Inn International Hotel of Yuma, in an attempt to limit its losses, has informed the Padres that they must compensate the hotel for any of the 70 reserved rooms that are unused. Mario Montano, manager of the hotel, said the Angels also have 60 hotel reservations for four days during their stay but have yet to cancel.
"The real loss in this city is when the fans from San Diego start canceling," he said.
The Padres, even under the best of circumstances, are expecting to drop about seven or eight games off their 29-game spring training schedule. Yuma itself would be helped by the fact that the Padres are scheduled to leave for Scottsdale for 10 games, the first on March 6 and the last on March 15.
Padre outfielder Tony Gwynn said the reduction in games also should have little bearing on the hitters, providing they have at least three weeks of camp. But the pitchers say it will be a different story for them.
"You can work out all you want during the winter," said Padre pitcher Dennis Rasmussen, the club's player representative, "but it's totally different once you get to spring training. You can't afford to rush a guy into a game and take the chance of hurting him the whole season.
"Really, we need at least a week of practice, and maybe even 10 days, before we can even think about playing in a game. I know I won't put myself in that situation."
Said Padre reliever Mark Grant: "I know I've been training all winter, but it's weird, once I put on the uniform and do the routine in spring training, I'm going to be stiff and tight. I feel I'd need at least three or four intrasquad games before I could pitch in a spring training game and at least three or four weeks before I could pitch in a regular game.
"To tell you the truth, I just want this thing to end. I'm getting sick and tired of hanging around the house and doing the laundry, the dishes and the vacuuming, you know what I mean?"
Even reliever Greg Harris, who pitched for six weeks in Puerto Rico, said he would require at least four or five days before pitching in a game, and starter Ed Whitson said he'd need at least 10 days after spending his winter in Columbus, Ohio.
If an agreement were reached today, a minimum of five more days to report plus 10 full days of training would mean the first game would be played March 12--three weeks before opening day.
"The guys who are going to be in big trouble, I think," Harris said, "are the guys who are trying to make this team."
Indeed, although the Padres originally planned to invite seven non-roster players to their major league spring camp, the only ones virtually assured of coming now are third baseman Eddie Williams and four catchers--Ronn Reynolds, Bob Lutticken, Danny Walters and Greg Conley. Pitchers Roger Smithberg and Bruce Tanner and shortstop Paul Faries are on hold.
"We just don't know how much time we're going to have to take a look at these guys," McKeon said. "Everything depends on when we get to start."
McKeon said he will try to compensate for the reduction of spring training games by scheduling an abundance of "B" games and extending practice sessions by a couple of hours.
"We've got no choice," McKeon said. "The nice part of spring training was we could take the first part of it to get the fundamentals down and getting in shape.
"We don't have that luxury anymore."