For the brothers Gwynn, it’s not yet a fairy tale. At least not as long as Chris Gwynn has visions of Albuquerque in his future.
“It’s a prison,” said Gwynn, Dodger outfielding aspirant and brother of Tony Gwynn, three-time National League batting champion with the San Diego Padres.
“I’m not exactly a big fan of that city. And I’m not a country-western fan, either.”
If Gwynn sounds eager to see New Mexico in his rear-view mirror, the state shouldn’t take it personally. It’s just that after two seasons with the triple-A Dukes and 64 days with the Dodgers, Gwynn figures L.A. should be the place. And if not L.A., then somewhere else in the big leagues.
Gwynn made his first bid of the spring to convince the Dodgers of that Monday with home runs in consecutive at-bats in the team’s first intrasquad game. He hit the first off a right-hander, Jeff Fischer, the pitcher the Dodgers drafted out of Montreal’s system last winter. He hit the second off a left-hander, Ray Searage, who is bidding for a spot in the Dodger bullpen.
“Hey, I’m not a home-run hitter,” protested Gwynn, who hit only five in each of his two seasons at Albuquerque.
He is, however, a left-handed hitter whose build--a compact 6-foot, 207 pounds--and line-drive swing are reminiscent of his brother, the batting champion. Gwynn has patiently endured the constant comparisons before, and recognizes that they will continue.
“Everywhere we went, it was Tony this and Tony that,” he said. “ ‘Did Tony help you with this or that?’ I take it all in stride.”
And, of course, Chris has availed himself of the opportunity to study his older brother--Tony will be 29 in May, Chris 25 in October--every chance he can. He has done so ever since they grew up together in Long Beach.
“We played against each other in the back yard and when I pitched to him I always looked at what he did, because he was always a great hitter,” Chris Gwynn said. “But I’ve always had to work at what I do. A lot of what Tony does comes naturally.
“There are stories about Tony that are almost legendary, how he’d play basketball one night at San Diego State, then go five for six in a baseball game the next day. If I did the same, I’d probably go one for three with a bleeder.”
Gwynn hit .299 last season for the Dukes and struck out only 39 times in 411 at-bats. In each of the last two seasons, he has spent time with the Dodgers. He had three hits in his first three big league at bats against the San Francisco Giants on Aug. 14, 1987, but received an immediate lesson in the tenuousness of his existence when he was sent back to the minors later the same week.
Last year, he joined the Dodgers in September and had two hits in 11 at-bats, almost exclusively as a pinch-hitter. At the moment, that’s the only role potentially open for him with the Dodgers, although it would appear that the team would have to move either Mike Davis or Franklin Stubbs to create a spot for him.
Gwynn isn’t alone in bidding for a promotion. Mike Devereaux, who will be 26 in April, hit .340 last season at Albuquerque, and Jose Gonzalez, the superior defensive player of the three, hit .306 and stole 44 bases.
“You come to spring training and you see Mike Marshall and Kirk Gibson and John Shelby and you say, ‘Which one of these guys is going anywhere?’ ” Devereaux asked Monday. “But I want to play in the big leagues. If I was in a pinch-hitting role, that would be OK. I’d just take the attitude that soon I’d get a starting role.
“Hey, I’m going out there and play my best, do what I can to make a spot.”
Gwynn, like Devereaux, believes he’s ready. And he doesn’t need his brother to tell him.
“On last year’s (Albuquerque) team, we had a lot of guys who could have been playing in the big leagues with other teams,” Chris Gwynn said. “It was tough, but we took care of each other. Nobody wanted to be there.
“And if I have to go back, I don’t know what I’d do.”
Alfredo Griffin, the last player of spring to arrive, worked out with the team. . . . John Tudor left camp to attend to personal business, but will be back Wednesday.