PADRES : This Bet, Gwynn Wanted to Lose His Shirt

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Padre outfielder Tony Gwynn looked at it, sneered at it and cringed at the thought. Slowly, painfully, he pulled it over his head and tucked it into his uniform pants. He was disgraced, he said.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do in baseball," Gwynn said. "Nothing compares."

Just what was the cause of the anxiety?

After losing a bet to teammate Bruce Hurst, Gwynn was forced to wear a Brigham Yong University T-shirt the entire day at the ballpark.

Gwynn, an alumnus of San Diego State, and Hurst, a diehard BYU fan, wagered on the Western Athletic Conference basketball tournament. The bet was on which school would last longest in the tournament. The loser would had wear the other's school T-shirt.

Well, San Diego State lost to Utah. BYU beat Hawaii. And there was Hurst, waiting with open arms, with his blue BYU T-shirt.

"I kept my end of the bet," Gwynn muttered, yanking off the shirt after the Padres' 2-1 victory over the Angels. "It was awfully hard, but I did it."

Said Hurst: "You know, he looks so good in that shirt, he may never take it off. Look at him. He got two hits in it, didn't he?"

Gwynn, who went two for two and has failed to make an out in five plate appearances, said: "Yeah, but I wasn't wearing it yesterday, so it doesn't matter. Believe me, I won't be wearing it again."

Said Hurst: "To tell you the truth, I'm just glad I got it back in one piece."

For Gwynn, it was business as usual. He went to the plate twice. Lined singles into the outfield each time. And complained afterwards that he still hasn't hit a ball into left field in his first two games.

"Can you believe the guy? What a perfectionist," Padre Manager Greg Riddoch said. "He's never satisfied. If he gets five hits in a game, he'd be critical that two of his hits weren't exactly where he wanted them."

Hurst never gave the Angel hitters a chance. He faced the minimum amount of batters over three innings, throwing 29 pitches, allowing one hit and striking out two.

"Maybe I shouldn't say this," Hurst said, "but the dirt's so grainy out there, the balls we're throwing are pretty scuffed up. It makes a big difference. The ball's running all over the place.

"But I felt good. My tempo and timing were exactly as I wanted, and my pitches were working just as I wanted.

"Just seeing Tony out there with that BYU shirt on, gosh, what more could you want?"

Reliever Larry Andersen was all set this weekend to talk with the Padre ownership about the possiblity of putting beer back in the clubhouse.

"But after today," Andersen said, "I think I'll wait awhile."

Andersen was the lone Padre pitcher to get knocked around Saturday, yielding one run and three hits in one inning.

"Hey, for me," Andersen said, "that was outstanding. Now, for someone trying to make the team, it was (awful). I had a Jim Deshaies fastball, which goes about 72-78 m.p.h. And I had Jim Kern control."

Jim Kern?

"Yeah, you remember him," he said. "He was the big right-hander who spent five years in Class-A ball trying to throw a strike."

Andersen, however, hardly was concerned.

"I've only had one good spring in my life, and I think that was in 1978," Andersen said. "And I got sent down anyway. So, I figured, what good does it do? Everyone's got their minds made up."

It hardly seemed possible, but there he was, in person, walking through the clubhouse door at 10 Saturday morning.

Yes, Rafael Valdez, the guy who has been stranded in the Dominican Republic, finally showed up to the Padre spring training camp 12 days late.

"I couldn't believe it, either," Valdez said. "Every morning I'd call to see if my visa was ready, and every day they'd told me the next day. I'd keep waiting, waiting and waiting. I didn't think I'd ever get here."

Finally, late Thursday night, Valdez received a call from Padre scout Manny Lantigua. He had the visa, courtesy of Puerto Rico scout Ronquito Garica.

"All he said was, 'You better get on that plane quick before someone changes their mind,' " Valdez said.

So Valdez took a flight to Miami at 3:53 in the morning, got a connecting flight to Los Angeles, and after spending the night in Los Angeles, flew to Yuma Saturday morning.

"I'm so tired I can't believe it," Valdez said. "But at least I'm here. Man, I'm glad to be here."

Valdez is expected to vie for the Padres' right-handed closer's job, but with his late arrival, Manager Greg Riddoch said, likely will start the season in triple-A Las Vegas.

Padre starter Ed Whitson is the only pitcher in baseball history to lower his ERA in four consecutive seasons, while making at least 30 starts.

In fact, Christy Mathewson, Mudcat Grant and Joe Bush (twice) are the only pitchers in history to lower their ERA in three consecutive seasons.

The Padres are requiring their players to sign waivers to remove all liability from the club in case they are involved in a car accident while driving their own cars to Phoenix or Palm Springs during spring training.

The players are signing the waiver, but really don't understand them.

"We called the players association," one player said, "and they told us to go ahead and sign them. They don't mean crap."

Padre Notes

Starter Dennis Rasmussen pitched two hitless innings, but of course, by walking four batters, it hardly was an easy day. Rasmussen found himself with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth inning, but he got out of the jam by striking out Jeff Robinson and Luis Polonia on three pitches. "He pitched great," Manager Greg Riddoch said. "He really showed me something when he got out of that jam." Said Rasmussen: "Believe me, I didn't do it on purpose. I had trouble getting that fastball over. But I was trying a new breaking ball pitch, and it worked great."

The Padres conclude their first Yuma session with a 12:05 p.m. (PST) game against the Angels. Calvin Schiraldi, Craig Lefferts and John Costello are the scheduled to pitch for the Padres. . . . Padre starter Andy Benes, who has been hampered by a lower back strain, will pitch one inning today in a "B" game against the Angels. "We feel this will be better for him," Riddoch said. "We didn't want to throw him to the wolves right away." . . . Padre catcher Benito Santiago celebrated his 26th birthday Saturday with a run-scoring single. . . . Just what will it be like for the Padres to be escaping Yuma for 12 days in Phoenix? "Like 12 days of Christmas," Riddoch said. . . . Center fielder Shawn Abner, who went hitless in two at-bats, has a slightly strained right hamstring. "I just can't do anything right," Abner said. "My timing's all off." . . . Outfielder Darrin Jackson's four-game home run streak ended Saturday when he flied out to right field. . . . Padre first baseman Fred McGriff got his first hits of the spring, going three for three. . . . Riddoch, talking to Hurst after his performance: "Way to go Bruce, you may have a chance to make this club." . . . Mike Lord will be traveling with the Padres this season, pitching pregame batting practice and inputting information in a computer during games.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
64°