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Career Days : Edwards and Moeller Take Divergent Paths as Replacements in Dodgers' Spring Camp

TAKING A CHANCE: Life in Baseball. Last in a series

March 05, 1995|STEVE ELLING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VERO BEACH, Fla. — Journeyman pitcher Wayne Edwards stands at the intersection of Jackie Robinson Avenue and Roy Campanella Boulevard, pondering his baseball future. Short-term decisions carry long-term implications.

One career path leads to a quick buck. He's more familiar with a second road. It points toward sweat and hard work. There's a middle route, too.

Since spring training opened last month at Dodgertown, Edwards has been continually checking his moral compass. There's some fast money to be made--$30,000 or more--by accepting the Dodgers' offer to serve as a replacement player.

To be truthful, Edwards' career isn't exactly on the ascent and the thought of crossing the picket line of striking big-leaguers isn't completely objectionable.

Edwards, 30, stands near a sidewalk at the Dodgers' sleepy spring complex. In his head, a neon sign flashes:

Cross. Don't cross.

"I understand that I'm a fringe big-leaguer, but everybody needs guys who can go out there and do the job," said Edwards, a left-hander who spent parts of three seasons with the Chicago White Sox.

Job himself might have trouble saying no to this get-well-quick proposition if he were in Edwards' situation.

It is not an enviable position. After declining an initial offer on the issue, Edwards decided Wednesday to participate in Dodger exhibition games.

According to the Major League Players Assn., this makes Edwards, who played at Village Christian High and lives in Canyon Country, a strikebreaker. His decision was a backbreaker. He vacillated for days.

"I'm not exactly individually wealthy from when I had my big-league cup of coffee," he said.

It was a sobering week in Dodgertown. Developments arose with the sun each morning. Each night, Edwards tossed and turned regarding the issues at hand.

In a manner of speaking, he sleeps in a house divided. His roommate, former big-league left-hander Dennis Moeller, a graduate of Cleveland High, declined to play in exhibitions.

Dollar signs dance in their heads, counterbalanced by the thought of again reaching the majors through legitimate means.

The duo and many like them are caught in a tug of war between striking players and owners. Two friends in the same room with different agendas underscores the uncertainty of Spring Training, 1995.

"I need to be seen, to be evaluated," said Edwards, who is married and has two young children. "I came to realize this was a big opportunity. I need to throw."

The Dodgers started throwing around the green stuff this week. As Moeller put it, the Dodgers "definitely sweetened the pot" with incentives. It's practically a pot of gold.

After conducting a survey last month to determine which players were willing to play in exhibitions, the club again interviewed the ranks of those who declined to participate.

The first group of, well, exhibitionists must not have turned many front-office heads. The Dodgers this week told minor leaguers selected to play in exhibitions that they would receive lucrative guaranteed contracts for 1995, even if the strike is settled. Players will receive $7,000 monthly in triple A. Each player also will receive a $5,000 bonus in April.

Edwards said he is guaranteed more than $7,000 monthly in '95, but declined to outline the particulars. The season lasts six months and the typical triple-A salary is roughly $25,000. Moeller said at least one teammate was offered a guaranteed minor-league contract of $100,000.

"It wasn't the money," Edwards said. "I've been racking my brain, talking to coaches and players. I decided to do what's best for Wayne Edwards, and that's to pitch."

Had Edwards declined to play in the exhibitions, he would have pitched against lesser competition in minor-league games, staged on secondary diamonds.

"You know, you'd like to think they'd walk the extra 50 feet or whatever to see you pitch," Edwards said. "But would they?"

Moeller aspires to earn a spot with the Dodgers' triple-A club in Albuquerque, N.M. Like Edwards, he is a non-roster invitee. However, Moeller's contract isn't guaranteed and since he won't pitch in exhibitions, he'll have to earn a roster position.

Moeller and Edwards signed with the Dodgers within a 24-hour period in January. Considering the timing and the mileage on the two, some assumed the club was lining up possible replacements. Other replacement candidates in camp have similar credentials.

"I'm kind of superstitious," said Moeller, who is single and lives in Granada Hills. "My first instinct was to say no, and I'm sticking with it. But you can't help but think about it."

Moeller and Edwards are the first to admit they never ranked as hot-shot prospects. Moeller was drafted out of Valley College, Edwards from Azusa Pacific.

"Most people never thought I was good enough to play in college, much less professionally," said Edwards, a 10th-round selection of the White Sox in 1985.

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