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PADRES UPDATE : NOTEBOOK : Lefferts Changes Stride to Match Career Path

March 11, 1992

MESA, Ariz. — Craig Lefferts thought about it momentarily Tuesday, and then walked to the mound this time, abandoning his traditional jaunt from the bullpen.

When you're attempting to make a career change--going from being a reliever to a starter--it's no time to act cute.

"It was beneficial running from the bullpen as a reliever," Lefferts said. "It was the last bit of psyche. I don't need that as a starter.

"Of course, you feel a little more at ease as a starter than coming in with the bases loaded in the ninth inning."

Lefferts, in his bid to become the fifth starter, yielded seven hits and two runs in his four-inning stint during the Padres' 4-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs. He allowed only two hits in the first three innings, but was battered around in the fourth for five hits and two runs.

"It brought back a lot of memories today," said Lefferts, who last started in a regular-season game in 1983, when he was with the Cubs. "I was pleased with the way it went, both mentally and physically. I just made a few bad pitches in the fourth inning, that's all."

Lefferts, who threw 52 pitches, said he had the stamina to pitch at least another inning. He likely will receive that opportunity this weekend.

"They said they're going to give me a legitimate shot to make this team as a starter," Lefferts said. "And I think I can help them best in that role. The more I can relearn the role of being starter, the better I'll be."

Padre Manager Greg Riddoch said: "It's going to take awhile, but I like what I see so far. No matter what happens, it's a win-win situation for him. If he doesn't make it as our starter, he'll be in the bullpen.

"We're going to evaluate this over the long haul, not just a couple of weeks."

Padre starter Ed Whitson, who has a strained flexor tendon in his right elbow, said Tuesday that the pain has subsided.

Yet, when he tried to lob a few pitches Tuesday, he was able to throw only four or five pitches before stopping.

"The pain's still there," Whitson said, "but if someone told me it would feel this good after the way it felt Monday, I'd have told them they were crazy. Hopefully, I should know by situation by Friday."

If the pain doesn't disappear by Friday, Whitson said, he'll make an appointment to be examined by Dr. James Andrews, the orthopedist who performed his elbow surgery last July. If the pain is gone, he'll begin begin pitching again."

"I'm more hopeful than I was (Monday)," said Whitson, who will not pick a baseball again until Friday. "The medication is starting to kick in, and I'm starting to feel the difference."

Traffic screeched to a halt. The local sheriff's received calls about UFO sightings. Children screamed.

Chill out Mesa, Ariz., it was just Padre reliever Larry Andersen pulling into town.

Andersen drove to the game Tuesday morning with his sunroof down, and a conehead mask. Bruce Hurst, who was riding in the passenger seat, was wearing a monster mask.

"I've had this mask since '79, and it works every time," Andersen said. "You should have seen the way their jaws dropped.

"Hey, I even showed up at the right place, and the right time today. I've got a feeling it's going to be a great spring."

It was a year ago, in Andersen's first spring with the Padres. that he got lost so often he even made a name tag for himself.

"So far, so good," he said. "Of course, it's too early to get cocky about it."

Padre pitcher Dave Eiland's hopes of becoming the fifth starter still are alive. He allowed three hits and one run in three innings, striking out three. "Once he got that sinker working after the first inning," Riddoch said, "he was something to watch." . . . Padre outfielder Thomas Howard returned to the team Tuesday after being with his wife and new baby for a week in Sacramento. He hit a homer over the right-field wall off Cubs reliever Dave Smith, but it was during a practice inning following the game. . . . Starter Greg Harris pitched three scoreless innings in the Padres' 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants in the morning "B" game. . . . Frank Seminara, who gave up four hits and two earned runs in 3 1/3 innings, took the loss.

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