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Spring Training / Angels : Juan Beniquez Is Taking Long Way to First Base

Times Staff Writer

Having hit .305 in 1983 and .336 last year, it is natural at times for Juan Beniquez to wonder what he must do to find steady work.

Now, for example, the 35-year-old outfielder finds Brian Downing in left, Gary Pettis in center and Angel Manager Gene Mauch talking about (1) giving Mike Brown first crack at replacing Fred Lynn in right and (2) occasionally using Reggie Jackson in right.

Saturday, however, Mauch was also talking about Beniquez, saying that he would at times play him at first base this year in what would probably be an all-right-handed hitting lineup.

Beniquez, who came to the major leagues as a Boston shortstop in 1971 and moved to the outfield in 1974, borrowed a glove from Rod Carew and played first base in a Saturday intrasquad game.

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“The way Gene explained it to me,” Beniquez said, “is that against certain left-handed pitchers I can play first, Bobby Grich can play second and Mike Brown can play right.

“I’ve never played there, but I don’t think it will be that hard because I’ve got good hands. I just have to work on throws and on my reactions in certain situations.

“I think it will give me more chance to play, and I have to like that.”

Mauch cited Carew’s recent susceptibility to injury and the potential of a right-handed lineup against tough left-handers like Ron Guidry, Frank Viola, Floyd Bannister and Bud Black. He said Beniquez might also spell Doug DeCinces at third base at times and that he still planned to use Grich at first on occasion.

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Grich, however, is convincing Mauch that he is still capable of playing regularly at second.

“From what I’ve seen,” Mauch said of Grich, “I don’t see why he won’t be able to play second as well as he did in ’82 (when Mauch’s Angels won the AL West). I don’t think he was in shape until September last year, which was not his fault. You can’t get in shape when you have the flu twice.”

Of Beniquez, Mauch said:

“Anyone who starts off at shortstop can play anywhere. We’re going to find out how far we can go with our options and flexibility.

“When you have a bat like Juan Beniquez, you want to get it in the lineup as often as you can, especially against certain pitchers.”

There’s one other aspect: the continued absence of first baseman Daryl Sconiers, who has now missed nine workouts and been fined $2,205.

“I’d have probably done this anyway,” Mauch said of the Beniquez move, “but I don’t know if Sconiers will ever show, and on that basis it makes even more sense.”

Beniquez, who appeared in 110 games last year and 92 the year before, said:

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“I hit .305 and come to spring training without a job. I hit .336 and come to spring training without a job.

“I’m not going to say anything about it because they pay me to play, but sometimes it frustrates me and I wonder what I have to do to get a job.

“All I can do is be ready when they call me and try to keep myself consistent.”

There have also been trade rumors about Beniquez since the end of the season. One, in particular, refuses to expire.

It’s still being said in the Cactus League that Beniquez will ultimately be traded to Oakland for pitcher Don Sutton, though Angel General Manager Mike Port insisted again Saturday that the talks are dead.

Beniquez said the rumors even reached him at his home in Puerto Rico.

“Every year,” he said, “I’m going to be traded or released or not make the club. But I’m still here.

“There are a lot of contending clubs that would make a deal for my services, but I can’t worry about it. I have confidence in myself and know what I can do. The important thing is to stay healthy and stay ready.”

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Angel Notes Saturday’s intrasquad game featured two good innings by Tommy John. “T.J. pitched like T.J. pitches when he wins,” Manager Gene Mauch said. “There were only a couple times that he didn’t throw a strike when he wanted.” . . . John, reiterating that this is a spring in which he can’t afford the luxury of one bad outing, said: “I’ve got to prove to this club or some other club that I can still pitch. Of course, I’ve been written off before. I’m like Rasputin.” . . . John said he has been preparing for the challenge by following the “Eat to Win” diet that is devoid of red meat. “I’m calling it the ‘Eat to Pitch’ diet,” he said. . . . Ron Romanick signed a 1985 contract, leaving Gary Pettis the only unsigned Angel. . . . This will be the full squad’s first and last day off of the spring. The Angels return for fundamentals Monday and Tuesday, then begin their exhibition schedule Wednesday against Seattle.


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