Carter Does as Expected; Padres Win

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Joe Carter refuses to read about himself in the sports pages. He turns off the sports talk shows on the radio. He doesn't drink, automatically eliminating bar room discussions.

But there are the fans. You can't hide from them. They're always there to let you know, in their own special way, how you're doing.

"I hear them," Carter said Thursday after the Padres' 8-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

"I hear them talking about the money I'm making.

"I hear them saying, 'You're the savior, and this is all your fault.'

"Well, I don't look at that way. I'm not going to say I'm adjusting to a new league or give you any excuses, but I learned in Cleveland that one guy is not going to carry a ballclub.

"It takes a team to win a championship, not just one guy."

But on a pleasant night in Cincinnati, just 250 miles where he spent the past 5 1/2 years, Carter took a giant stride toward becoming the type of hitter the Padres have been awaiting.

Carter went three for five with a 425-foot home run and drove in five runs as the Padres snapped a seven-game road losing streak in front of 35,337 at Riverfront Stadium.

It was his second-highest RBI total since joining the Padres and just the second time since May 27 that he's had more than two hits in a game.

When you have the lowest batting average (.221) on the team, and your on-base percentage (.271) is lower than six of your teammates' batting averages, games such as these don't come along too often.

Carter has been in midst of about a two-month slide. He endured one of the worst months of his life in May when he batted .181 with five homers and 18 RBIs, but it didn't get a whole lot better in June, when he hit .204 with three homers and 14 RBIs.

And when you're being paid $3.2-million and billed as the missing link that can bring a championship to San Diego, fans have this habit of expressing their displeasure.

It got to a point where Carter's name suddenly began surfacing in trade talks, and Manager Greg Riddoch asked if he needed to sit on the bench for a couple of days to regroup.

Carter ignored the talk, refused any gestures to keep him on the bench and told everyone that he'll be just fine.

"I wasn't putting any pressure on myself at all," Carter said. "I just wanted to hit the ball hard, hit home runs and drive runners in when I had the opportunity. If that's putting pressure on yourself, OK, I'm guilty.

"But I've learned long ago that I'm going to fail a lot in this game, too."

But in the past two weeks, the Padres have started to see a transformation. No longer is he trying to hit a home run with every swing. No longer is he trying to pull every ball to left field. No longer is he trying to carry this team.

Suddenly, Carter is beginning to resemble the player the Padres envisioned.

Carter was the man who got the Padres untracked in a four-run first inning, his ground-rule double scoring two runs.

It was Carter who gave the Padres a 7-1 lead in the second inning with his two-out, three-run homer into the left-field seats. The ball was hit so hard that left fielder Billy Hatcher and center fielder Eric Davis didn't even bother moving.

He hit a single in the fifth inning, grounded out to first base in the seventh and was robbed by shortstop Barry Larkin as he attempted to get his first four-hit game of the season in the eighth.

Jack Maloof, Padre batting coach, hates to utter the words, and Carter certainly won't admit it, but the Padres believe that the real Joe Carter might have emerged.

Oh, it's not that the old Joe Carter was so awful. He still has 17 homers, and his 77 RBIs puts him on a pace to finish with 121, which would be the most in Padre history. It's just that the Padres would like that batting average to climb along with the power numbers.

"I think you're starting to see a change now," Maloof said. "He's gotten away from turning on the ball so much, and he's using the whole field more. It's adjustments that I've asked him to make, and to his credit, he's doing it."

Said Carter: "I can definitely feel the difference. It took awhile for me to get comfortable with Jack's theory, but I'm getting used to it."

Carter's performance certainly went a long way in helping make Dennis Rasmussen (8-9) a winner for the first time since June 26, nearly six weeks ago.

Rasmussen didn't actually have a stellar performance, yielding eight hits and five runs in 6 1/3 innings, but considering some of the defense that occurred at third base, his numbers werea bit tainted, too.

There was the run that was set up in the third inning when Mariano Duncan stole third simply because Eddie Williams forgot to cover.

There were the two of three runs that scored in the fourth when Duncan hit a chopper to third that went about 70 feet. Williams tried to field it barehanded, but the ball bounced off his hand and rolled behind him. Herm Winningham scored from third, and Williams took longer to go 10 feet to retrieve the ball than it took Chris Sabo to go 180 feet and score from second.

It was last play Williams would make for the night, as Riddoch yanked him from the game.

"I'm not going to bad-mouth anybody," Riddoch said, "but you can make a good effort in making a mistake, and not . . . It was the second thing that happened in the game for him. I just had to do something there."

Williams said he was unaware of the ball's location after it bounced off him and that the play was more of result of Sabo's hustle than his negligence.

"I sure wasn't dogging it," Williams said. "I don't know how it looked, but I wasn't dogging it."

Riddoch had a different opinion, of course, but with victories coming so infrequently this season, he wasn't about to let it spoil his night.

Padre Notes

After being rejected by the Padres, the Philadelphia Phillies are expected in the next few days to trade pitcher Jeff Parrett and a minor league player to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for outfielder Dale Murphy. The Phillies offered to trade Parrett to the Padres for Clark, sources said, but the Padres declined. . . . Too bad he missed it department: A sign hanging in the left corner of Riverfront Stadium: "Thomas Howard, we love you." Oops. Howard was optioned Wednesday afternoon to triple-A Las Vegas. . . . Padre Manager Greg Riddoch returned to his roots for the first time as manager. Riddoch was drafted by the Reds, managed in the organization, and was an administrator in the front office before leaving Dec. 31, 1985, after Marge Schott become president. Chief Bender, the Reds special player consultant, greeted Riddoch; Schott did not. "To be honest, I don't think she even remembers I was here," Riddoch said. "Oh, well, I won't lose any sleep over it. It wouldn't be right for me to bad-mouth the organization. Besides, I'm thankful I was able to start here. What a better place to learn the game than in Cincinnati."

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