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Dodger Notebook : Brother, This Kid Looks Like a Batting Champion

Special to The Times

Chris Gwynn longs for the day when people stop referring to him as Tony Gwynn’s brother.

Chris is having a tough enough time trying to edge into the Dodgers’ crowded outfield this spring without being constantly compared to the three-time National League batting champion in his family.

Although Chris Gwynn is the same type of hitter as Tony--he drills line drives--he hasn’t come close to the numbers posted by his older brother with the San Diego Padres.

Still, the .299 batting average Chris Gwynn compiled at triple-A Albuquerque last year wasn’t all that bad. It only looked that way when matched against Tony’s six consecutive .300-plus seasons and career .331 average in the major leagues.

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So what if Chris Gwynn isn’t a second Tony Gwynn? The Dodgers are high enough on him to consider him a candidate for their 24-man roster, and for the defending World Series champions, that’s a major compliment.

In fact, the Dodgers’ No. 45 could just as well have been the Padres’ No. 19 in disguise when he started in left field against the Minnesota Twins Wednesday. He looked like a carbon copy of brother Tony as he lined a double down each foul line in his first two times at bat. His two-for-three day in the Dodgers’ 5-4 victory raised his exhibition average to .450--nine for 20.

“We’re both contact hitters,” Chris said. “We’re both left-handed, so I guess I picked up my stroke from watching him when I was a kid.”

At 24--Tony is 28--Chris is still young enough that a return ticket to Albuquerque wouldn’t put a serious crimp in his career. He already has put in two seasons there, however, so he sees nothing to be gained from a third.

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“A year ago, it was good for me to go back,” Chris said. “We were loaded with outfielders, and I knew I’d be better off playing every day. Now I just want to be here, even if it means pinch-hitting and backup duty.”

Gwynn noted that Mike Devereaux, a fellow rookie outfielder up from Albuquerque, got a big break when the Dodgers traded him to the Baltimore Orioles last Saturday for pitcher Mike Morgan.

Asked if he wishes he had gone in Devereaux’s place, Gwynn said, “If that’s what it takes for me to play, yes. Actually, the trade was a great break for all of us--Mike, me and Jose Gonzalez (still another outfield hopeful from Albuquerque).

“Last spring, we had so many outfielders here that you might get two hits and somebody else might get three. Now it’s down to Jose and me, and my goal is to be consistent. I want to open someone’s eyes.”

When Gwynn said the outfield competition boiled down to him and Gonzalez, he didn’t mean that one of them was sure to make the team. Unless Franklin Stubbs is traded, which could happen, there may not be an opening.

Barring a deal, Mike Davis and Stubbs will be the primary outfield spares behind Kirk Gibson, John Shelby and Mike Marshall. Stubbs also figures to understudy Eddie Murray at first base. Whether that leaves a spot for a sixth outfielder depends on how Manager Tom Lasorda arranges the roster.

Mariano Duncan, nominally an infielder, is getting a tryout in the outfield. If he and utility infielders Dave Anderson and Mike Sharperson all stay, and Stubbs isn’t traded, both Gwynn and Gonzalez will be in trouble.

“If they want a left-handed contact hitter off the bench, I could be their man,” Gwynn said.

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Dodger Notes

A remark made by Manager Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds last season is still a source of enjoyment for Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda. Before Wednesday’s exhibition against the Minnesota Twins, Lasorda said, “Last year, Pete Rose became one of the greatest prophets of all time. They beat us, 18-2, in Cincinnati one night, and the next day he said, ‘The Dodgers? I’m not worried about the Dodgers. I’m worried about the (San Francisco) Giants and Houston.’ The next time in, we were 8 1/2 games in front.”

Shortstop Alfredo Griffin has been so hot that when he went two for four Wednesday, he dropped four points to .541. . . . Third baseman Jeff Hamilton, who has been out a week with a bruised left thigh, is almost ready to return to the lineup. . . . Mike Morgan, the newest Dodger, will continue his bid for the fifth starting spot in a stint scheduled for three innings against the Montreal Expos at Vero Beach today.


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