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Padre Notebook : Abner Appears to Have Locked Up Roster Spot

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

If there is any question that Shawn Abner would do just about anything to make the Padres’ opening day roster, all one has to do is remember how he helped himself make the team last year.

He crashed through an outfield fence to catch a fly ball in a game against the Angels in Palm Springs. The feat earned him a spot in Padre lore and erased what little doubt there might have been that he would be on the 24-man roster.

Abner figures to be with the Padres again for opening day, but it probably does not have a lot to do with what he has done this spring and nothing to do with what he did last year.

Abner should be with the Padres on opening day because Shane Mack, his best competition for the fifth outfield spot, is out for at least a week with a sore right elbow. That is not to say that Abner likely wouldn’t have made the team anyway, but the injury to Mack certainly enhanced his chances.

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“I can’t be happy over what happened to Shane,” Abner said. “He is a friend. All I can do is do the best I can. That is not going to change whether Shane is here or not.”

Manager Jack McKeon is not ready to say that Abner has the team made. But with Mack out and with Jerald Clark, the other competition for the fifth outfield spot, batting only .240 with nine strikeouts in 25 at-bats, Abner appears to be in a strong position.

This despite what has been a mixed spring for Abner. Although he has hit safely in seven of his past 20 at bats, including a two-run double in an 8-6 exhibition victory over Seattle Sunday, his average is only .241.

“When Mack goes down, that eliminates some of your competition,” McKeon said. “You get to the point where if he (Abner) does anything, who cares? You have to have somebody. That’s not necessarily the scenario you would like.”

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Neither did Abner enter camp with impressive credentials from last season.

“It was a lost year,” Abner said.

Abner spent the first two months of the season with the Padres, but batted only .181 and was optioned to triple-A Las Vegas with more strikeouts (19) than hits (15).

His time in Las Vegas went even worse. He sprained an ankle returning to second base after an out and played only 11 games in the final two months of the season. His .254 average was the worst of his five-year minor league career. But Abner does not view his early struggles in camp as a carry-over from last year. He said his ankle is healed and he is ready to go.

“I started out slowly, but I’ve been doing all right lately,” Abner said. “I feel pretty good about everything right now.”

Abner also said his slow start had nothing to do with his status as one of those Padres mentioned prominently in trade talks and watched by visiting scouts.

“I haven’t paid any attention to that,” Abner said. “I wouldn’t know one of those scouts if I was standing right next to him.”

Eric Show went the longest of any Padre pitcher this camp, pitching 6 2/3 innings in an 8-6 victory over Seattle in front of a sellout crowd of 6,353 at Sun Desert Stadium.

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Show (2-0) left with runners on first and second after allowing two runs to score in the seventh. Show and Walt Terrell shared the previous high of six innings.

Show allowed 11 hits and five earned runs. He also went two for three and scored a run.

“It was probably the hottest day I’ve pitched in out here and I started to feel tired at the end,” Show said.

McKeon said the plan was for Show to pitch between 95 and 100 pitches. He made 93 pitches before being relieved by Mark Grant. Pat Clements took over for Grant in the ninth and earned his first save.

Marvell Wynne hit his first home run of the spring, a towering two-run drive to right field in the first inning off loser Scott Bankhead.

Wynne is second on the team in RBIs with 10 and went two for four to raise his average to .419.

Benito Santiago continued his strong spring, going three for four to bring his average to .484 and extend his current hot streak to 11 hits in his past 18 at-bats (.611).

Padre Notes

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Manager Jack McKeon said he expects to name his opening day starter in the next day or so. Eric Show has been the Padres’ opening day starter in three of the past five seasons. . . . The Padres made their first cuts of spring training Sunday, trimming five nonroster players. Reassigned to the Padres’ minor league camp were pitchers Joe Bitker, Terry Gilmore and Joe Lynch and catchers Greg Hall and Bob Lutticken. That leaves the Padres with 38 players in the major league camp, 36 of whom are roster players. . . . The Padres (10-5-1) open a two-game series with Milwaukee at Sun Desert Stadium today at 12:05 p.m. Bruce Hurst (2-1, 3.71 ERA) will start for the Padres.


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