N.L. Champion Padres Fill Ship With Ace, Fireman, Utilityman : Tim Stoddard : Bullpen Heats Up With Latest Addition

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Times Staff Writer

There is a certain vanity that goes with being feared, fast, wealthy and relatively young.

A prime exhibit is Goose Gossage, for several years the most intimidating pitcher in baseball.

He came to the Padres last season, pumped up by a multi-million dollar contract but also pestered by reports that his fastball had tailed off.

At 33, Gossage gave no credence to the talk of his best pitch losing its steam. He had a representative Gossage season: a 10-6 record, 2.90 earned-run average and 25 saves. Even in the end, when he challenged Detroit’s Kirk Gibson and lost in Game 5 of the World Series, the Goose defined himself by adhering to his belief in his fastball.


Not that the Padres had any doubts, but they have now augmented their bullpen with another hulking, hard-throwing right-hander in his early 30s.

The vital statistics on Tim Stoddard are: 6-foot 7-inches; 31 years old; fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s and a three-year contract worth $2 million.

After turning down an offer from the Chicago Cubs, for whom he was 10-6 and struck out 87 batters in 92 innings last year, Stoddard comes to San Diego with the same unbending faith in his fastball that marks Gossage.

And why not? How many right-handed hitters relish the prospect of facing either of these burly, bearded, frightening guys in the ninth inning of a close game?

Stoddard was an hour late arriving at a press conference Wednesday to introduce three new Padres--LaMarr Hoyt, Jerry Royster and Stoddard. But he hadn’t left behind the realization that what got him here--blinding heat--will diminish in potency in the advancing years.

“I’ve tried to refine my knowledge of pitching over the years, but I haven’t tried adding any trick pitches yet,” Stoddard said. “I consider myself a strikeout pitcher with a fastball and a slider. Sometimes I get grounders and sometimes I get fly balls, but I still go for the strikeout when I need it.


For a time this winter it appeared the Cubs might be approaching the end of their golden era, after just one season, when pitchers Rick Sutcliffe, Steve Trout, Dennis Eckersley and Stoddard were being courted by other teams. In the end, Stoddard was the only defection.

It was purely a financial decision for Stoddard, who grew up in East Chicago, Ind., has a home in the area and many friends among the Cubs.

Stoddard, who formerly toiled for Earl Weaver in the Baltimore Orioles’ bullpen, is admittedly a stubborn man, but he has enough common sense to accommodate demanding managers.

“If I’m doing something wrong, I want to be told,” he said. “I can be stubborn, but in the sense of work habits, I’ll fulfill what the manager wants.

“I’m not the quickest guy in the world, and it’s not a pretty sight to watch me run. But I will run as much as they ask--and I’ve never been beat to first base yet.”

Not many pitchers can beat his fastball, either.