Padre Notebook : Few Except Feeney Appear Satisfied as Roberto Alomar Is Sent Down

Times Staff Writer

What began so wondrously last month as it stretched its huge potential across the middle of a baseball diamond ended Friday, curled up in the balm-soaked corner of a trainer’s room.

It ended with a 20-year-old and a towel and tears, uncontrollable tears, punctuated by cries of, “No, no.”

For the first time all spring, Roberto Alomar has acted his age.

The top second-base prospect from double A was sent back to the minor leagues, ending the Padres’ most unusual spring-training battle amid debris of red eyes, anger and empty-sounding promises.


“They hurt my heart,” Alomar said softly after being reassigned to triple-A Las Vegas, a step many thought he should skip. “They tell me if I have a good spring, I make it. I have a good spring. And I don’t make it.

“What do I have to do?”

The battle ended shortly after the Padres lost a 5-2 decision to the Seattle Mariners. One by one, five Padres were given directions to the minor league camp.

If there was a winner, it was Padre President Chub Feeney.

There was certainly a loser, and it was Manager Larry Bowa.

Caught in the middle, with his .360 spring average, 10-game hitting streak, eye-popping fielding and all this talk about rookie of the year, was Alomar.

He was the first to get the news. Stunned, he stumbled from the manager’s office by a side door, avoiding the media and clubhouse stares by ducking into the training room.

There he sat, for 30 minutes, weeping and wondering out loud about his fate. Several teammates, including his father, Padre coach Sandy Alomar, came in to console him.

“He’s taking it hard, so hard,” teammate Candy Sierra said. “He doesn’t understand why. Many people do not understand why.”


Finally Alomar emerged, sniffling and wiping his eyes with clenched fists.

“I know I can do the job, they know I can do the job,” he said. “Chub Feeney tells me that I’ll be back up here pretty soon . . . but everybody is told that when they are sent down. I ask them, if that is the case, why not let me stay now?”

Highlighting the unusual nature of this conflict is that Bowa does not know that answer.

“I told him he did everything I asked,” Bowa said shortly after he told Alomar. “I just told him to keep his head up, that it’s a long season. The chances of Robbie coming to the big leagues in 1988 are pretty good.”

Bowa can open his mouth only as far as a one-year contract will allow. But with his face red and tight, his eyes cast downward, he still could not hide the effect of Friday’s decision.

“The good thing is, Robbie is mature,” said Bowa. “He knows what’s going on.”

What’s going on starts with Feeney, a prototype “old school” baseball man who, when he was general manager of the San Francisco Giants from 1950-69, made both Willie McCovey and Juan Marichal spend parts of their rookie years in the minor leagues.

He is afraid to rush Alomar at the expense of Randy Ready, the veteran who hit .309 as a utility man last year and was given the second base job this winter. He is worried about Ready and other veterans’ morale if Alomar stays. He is worried for Alomar’s morale if the kid fails.

On that last point, Feeney can point to precedent. In the past two seasons, two Padre second baseman have made the leap from double A to the starting big-league job--Bip Roberts and Joey Cora. Both failed so that, in the organization’s grand scheme, they have become virtually obsolete.


“The kid is 20 years old,” Feeney said Friday. “He has never been as high as triple A. With a good foundation, he can last 15 years once he gets here, but he needs that foundation.”

Feeney shrugged. “This happens every spring, every camp. Some prospect catches the eye. But it’s not like we don’t already have somebody who can play second base. We don’t have chopped liver over there.”

Concerning Ready, who is hitting .300 this spring with a team-leading eight doubles, it’s not that Bowa doesn’t agree. It’s just that he has fallen in love with Alomar, and career-wise, he can’t afford to think much about the future.

“Whatever happens, Robbie has opened eyes,” said Bowa. “He’s going to make it. It’s just a matter of when.”

That time could be as short as 10 days, the minimum required stay for a player optioned either up or down. And once the season starts, Feeney has promised, “The team will be Larry’s baby. He can do what he wants.”

But because of the magnitude of the decision, look for Bowa to give Ready at least a few weeks. All of which is fine with Ready, who has remained calm through all this.


“When he gets here, he’s going to be here for a long, long time, and more power to him,” said Ready, 28, a three-year veteran. “But I did it last year, and I’m confident of the job I can do this year.”

Judging from Friday’s emotional reaction, can Alomar?

“It will be hard, the first days down there,” he said. “Maybe if I don’t do good, they use it as an excuse that I should stay there. So I must play hard. I must not let up.”

Padre Notes

Also sent down Friday, to no one’s surprise, were infielder Mike Brumley, outfielder Randell Byers, pitcher Keith Comstock and catcher Bruce Bochy, who had already been designated as a Las Vegas player-coach. All players tentatively agreed to report except for Comstock, a 32-year-old who must convince his wife that he is not ready to retire. The players have 72 hours each to decide.