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Green Is Hit of the Day, but Fielding Skills Still His Key to Padre Roster

Times Staff Writer

Somebody was looking for Gary Green after his two-hit, two-RBI game here Tuesday when a voice arose in the clubhouse.

“He’s in the back icing his hands,” it said. “He’s never hit a ball that hard in his life.”

If the Padres would-be backup shortstop heard that, he would have laughed. And then maybe looked for some ice.

“Hey,” Green had said earlier, pointing to Jack Clark. “You looking for the slugger, you look over there. If I ever hit a home run, it will be like a big deal. It will be like . . . a mistake.”

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There was no mistaking the effect of Green’s two-run single in the sixth inning, which helped the Padres to a club-record 17th spring victory, 9-1 over the Angels. Two innings later, there was no mistaking that ball he sent bouncing to the left-field wall for a double.

But there was also no mistaking that this was still Gary Green, who entered the day batting an even .100, with two hits in his entire spring. This was still the Gary Green who apparently will make this team because he catches grounders better than anyone here, and for no other reason.

Example: In his first at-bat Tuesday, Green fouled off a ball that hit a child in the stands. A caring sort, Green was so upset he immediately sent the child a bat. But when a Padre official arrived to hand the bat to the boy’s father, the boy was fine. Green didn’t hit it hard enough to hurt him.

Example: Green’s two-run hit traveled about 80 feet, looping between first and second base, looking less like a single than a golf slice.

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“He smoked it,” Manager Jack McKeon said with a smile.

“Hey,” Green said. “Two runs scored, so I’ll take 150 of those hits a year.”

Example: On Green’s two hits, he didn’t even use the bats with his name on them. He used the bats with Marvell Wynne’s name on them. Wynne entered the game hitting .385 this spring.

Green, in fact, hasn’t been using his bats all spring. “I don’t like my bats, I like Marvell’s bats,” he said.

“That’s fine,” Wynne said, “except I saw him even using my bats for batting practice, and I almost had a heart attack. I said ‘Hold it, big fellow.’

“I think he needs to order some more and get his own name on there.”

They can joke all they want, but with Mike Brumley recently traded and new acquisition Luis Salazar more of a natural third baseman, Green is a lock to be with the club opening night. And with Garry Templeton’s temperamental left knee--which Templeton was icing Tuesday even though he didn’t play--Green could be used a lot more than as a defensive replacement.

And his bat will have nothing to do with any of that.

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“When I first came in this organization, Bobby Tolan was my coach at double-A, and he told me, ‘We just want you to make the plays in the field, you can hit .250, .260, we don’t care,” said Green, a first-round June draft pick in 1984 from Oklahoma State and the shortstop on the ’84 U.S. Olympic baseball team. “Since that talk, I have tried to do just that, take care of my fielding. Sure, I want to hit .500 or something, but my main concern is the field.”

Taking Tolan’s advice to heart, Green hit .257 his first season, then .249 at triple-A Las Vegas in 1986. At the end of that year, he was called up to the Padres and went 7 for 33 (.212). The next two seasons, he hit .237 and .272 in Las Vegas. In his four-year pro career, in 1,498 at-bats, he has two homers.

“The way I figure it, anything I do at the plate is a plus,” Green said. “I’m here to play good infield and make all the plays and just do whatever I can at the plate. Maybe bunt the guy over, or make contact to get a guy over, or whatever.”

It has always been McKeon’s contention that Templeton can hit .230 and still be an important part of the starting lineup--"As long as we have guys around him who can hit,” McKeon said. “You don’t always need those big numbers from your shortstop.”

He feels the same about Green, only more so.

“If he stays, he’s here for defense, for late innings,” McKeon said. “That’s his role, and while we’d like to see him get a few hits, defense is is the main thing we’d ask.”

Green, infielder/outfielder Bip Roberts and first baseman Rob Nelson are officially in contention for the final two roster spots. It appears those spots will go to Green and Roberts, the latter because of his versatility.

The Padres were hit with a bit of reality when Don Fehr, executive director of the Players Assn., met with them and the Angels concerning the impending 1990 labor dispute.

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In this, the last stop of Fehr’s league-wide tour, the teams heard of the owners’ threat to lock the players out of camp next spring following the Dec. 31, 1989, expiration of the current basic agreement. They heard about the issues likely to separate the two parties, things such as free agency, salary cap and arbitration.

Then, after the three-hour chat, as if to enforce the seriousness of the matter, players who played all of last season in the big leagues were given annual Major League Baseball Licensing revenue checks containing $5,000, or $27,000 less than usual.

That is because from every check, given to the players as their cut of everything sold that is licensed by Major League Baseball (caps, shirts, etc.), $27,000 is being withheld for a strike year war chest.

“What is comes down to is: If there isn’t the threat of a lockout or strike, we get $32,000 today,” one Padre said. “But we get $5,000. That brings home the seriousness of the thing.”

Players who have been in the league each of the years from 1986-89 would stand to earn about $70,000 in strike pay from the Players Assn., which Fehr said might be needed.

“If there is an owners’ lockout or we are pushed to a strike, it could last a long time,” he said.

Although the Players Assn. will not make any contract demands until they see the nature of the free-agent market and salary structures as dictated by the owners next winter, the owners have already talked about revenue sharing and a salary cap, both of which the players would oppose.

For those who think the thought of a lockout or strike will get the Padres down, not to worry. “Not that we won’t be eventually worried, but first things first,” said pitcher Dennis Rasmussen, the Padres’ player representative. “We’ve got a long season to think about. Right now, this is on the back burner.”

Padre Notes

Bill Adams, who just last July was named Padre director of ticket sales and operations, has been named to replace Dick Freeman as executive vice president. It was a move not completely unexpected, since Adams was hired last summer away from a high-powered spot as president of Coca-Cola’s Los Angeles operation. Adams will control the club’s ticketing, broadcasting, finance, marketing and stadium operations. In other words, he’s one of a growing breed of baseball executives who don’t have much to do with baseball. . . . After Tuesday’s 9-1 victory over the Angels, third baseman Randy Ready was icing a sore right shoulder. . . . Not only is reliever Mark Davis having a great spring on the mound--he pitched another shutout inning Tuesday as his ERA dropped to 0.53--he’s having an unbelievable spring on the links. At the Palm Springs Municipal Golf Course Monday afternoon, Davis had his second hole-in-one in the past two months. This time he used a seven-iron on a 165-yard hole. “We high-fived for five minutes,” said Mike Swanson, the Padre assistant director for media relations and Davis’ witness. Davis also had a hole-in-one just before the start of spring training at a Scottsdale, Ariz., course.


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