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Hurst Decision Expected Today; Padres, Red Sox Wait It Out

Times Staff Writer

It was a day and night of waiting, and waiting, and finally, around midnight in the hotel lobby, Padre General Manager/Manager Jack McKeon let out a sigh the size of Bruce Hurst’s left arm.

“We’re just going to pitch a tent, over by the elevator,” McKeon said. “We’re going to put up a sign outside saying, “ ‘Deals made here.’ ”

Deals were not made there Monday as the Padres held a frustrating and ultimately wasted vigil for Boston free-agent pitcher Hurst, and then suffered through the extinction of several possible trades, including one for Cubs’ shortstop Shawon Dunston.

First, Hurst. No, he didn’t sign with the Padres, although word spread that he had finally made up his mind and was going to announce his decision after a late Monday conversation with the Red Sox. This, in part, caused Padre interim president Dick Freeman to nervously roam the lobby for a couple of hours before finally retiring to his room with one ear to the phone, which rang only with the calls of reporters.

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And no, Hurst didn’t sign with the Red Sox, contrary to a report that somehow found itself on a national radio sports show. When the news was aired by CBS’s Brent Musburger early Monday evening, it was the first the Red Sox had heard of it.

“This has become a real circus,” Hurst said earlier from his Boston home.

But yes, a decision should come today--"At the latest, I hope,” Hurst said.

And yes, despite an increased bid by the Angels, it appears the odds remain overwhelmingly in favor of the two-time All-Star joining the Padres. He confirmed Monday that he was torn between a sense of obligation (Red Sox) and the betterment of his family (Padres), but that in the end it might be no choice.

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“Sure, I can’t help but have a strong feeling for the Red Sox,” Hurst said. “I’ve been with them 13 years and--good, bad or indifferent--that team has become a part of me.

“But sometimes it comes down to a choice between your obligations to a team and what is better for your family and yourself. And in that case, there is no choice--you choose for your family and yourself.”

The Red Sox front office spent 40 minutes on the phone with Hurst Monday attempting to convince him that they were his family. They left the conversation feeling optimistic, but not enough so that they haven’t begun shopping for a pitcher to replace Hurst. They said they will attempt to talk to Hurst again today and increase their current 3-year, $5 million offer, which tops the Padres $4.7 million offer that will reportedly be increased to match the Red Sox offer if needed.

“It was very amicable, Bruce was friendly, he was outgoing,” Red Sox General Manager Lou Gorman said. “What that means, I don’t know.”

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Gorman then went out and inquired about free-agent pitchers Mike Flanagan, Jim Clancy and Doyle Alexander.

As far as the Angels are concerned, the Padres don’t quite consider them a concern, despite the fact that they upped their offer to a reported $5.5 million with the promise by General Manager Mike Port that “We will not be outbid by anyone.”

Hurst has told friends that he will not play for eccentric Angels manager Doug Rader, and the Padres don’t feel Hurst can be swayed with just green.

“Put it this way, I don’t think the contract is the main issue in any of this,” said Freeman, who talked more “contract language” with Hurst’s agent Nick Lampros Monday.

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And if the Padres do sign Hurst this morning?

“What a starting staff,” said pitching coach Pat Dobson, attending these meetings. “We will have as good of a staff as anybody.”

Here’s what that staff will look like, in possible order of rotation, with last year’s victories listed after each pitcher:

Right-hander Eric Show (16), lefty Bruce Hurst (18), right-hander Ed Whitson (13), lefty Dennis Rasmussen (16) and Walt Terrell (7).

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“We get Bruce Hurst,” said one club official, “and you’d have to consider us the division favorites.”

Only if McKeon can now unload catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. for a decent hitter, something which gave him considerable trouble Monday.

“Everybody is afraid go through with anything, to do anything,” McKeon said. “I don’t know if they are afraid to get burned or what. I don’t know what is going on. But we can’t get anybody off their rear ends to make a deal.”

The Padres have talked with Cleveland about outfielder Joe Carter. The Indians have said no. The Padres have talked with Texas about third baseman Steve Buechele. The Rangers have said no.

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The Padres have talked with Montreal about obtaining either third baseman Tim Wallach or outfielder Hubie Brooks. The Expos have said no.

Then Monday afternoon, the Cubs jumped up and made a nine-player deal with Texas, a deal which particularly irked McKeon. By trading outfielder Rafael Palmeiro and pitchers Jamie Moyer and Drew Hall, the Cubs filled their needs for a short reliever (Mitch Williams) and starting pitcher (Paul Kilgus) and utility infielder (Curtis Wilkerson) without giving up Dunston.

Translated: “Dunston is now our opening-day starting shortstop,” Cubs Manager Don Zimmer said.

Further translation: “Our talks for Dunston look dead,” said a Padre official.

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Next up: a quest for Yankee third baseman Mike Pagliarulo and the big bid for Braves’ outfielder Dale Murphy.


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