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Erratic Padres Are Seeking Spark

United Press International

When former Cy Young award winner LaMarr Hoyt is struggling and only two players are hitting above .300, you have the makings of a summer that maybe should be dedicated to surfing instead of baseball.

The Padres have been sputtering for most of the season, hanging in the pack well behind Houston and San Francisco and were fifth in the AL West by June 19.

“I have felt all along that there are only two teams in our division that had the ability to run away with the division, and that would be either us or the Dodgers,” said team President Ballard Smith. “Obviously, we have not played to that level yet. But if you look at our club, we have veteran players in the lineup who have proven they are winners.”

The malaise of the Padres can be traced primarily to weak hitting and erratic performances by both the starting pitchers and the bullpen.

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“It seems like we talk about the same thing every night,” Manager Steve Boros told reporters after being asked to explain a recent loss.

Smith held a closed door clubhouse meeting with his troops prior to an 8-5 victory over San Francisco last Tuesday. It was not known if the meeting was a pep rally or a trip to the woodshed.

“You can have all the meetings you want, but each player is going to have to get a spark, and you do that with clutch hitting and big plays in the field,” said pitcher Craig Lefferts.

Most notable among the lapses are such things as Garry Templeton’s .215 batting average and 12 errors, Graig Nettles’ nine errors and Dave Dravecky’s 5-7 record despite a 2.76 earned-run average.

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There are also the problems LaMarr Hoyt is having on the field. After missing spring training in order to seek treatment for a drinking problem, Hoyt was only 2-3 in his first nine starts. Hoyt walked a mere 20 batters in 210 innings last year. This season, he walked 25 in his first 54 innings. Between his eighth and ninth starts, he worked in the bullpen and twice came on as a reliever.

Hoyt was chased after four innings June 18. Boros said that he would have pitched better had it not been for a finger blister on his pitching hand.

“I’m still pleased with his delivery,” Boros said. “I think he has got plenty of good innings ahead for this ballclub.”

San Diego needs a stopper on the pitching staff. Hoyt, who started for the National League in last year’s All-Star Game, is the most likely candidate.

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