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PADRES UPDATE : NOTEBOOK / BOB NIGHTENGALE : McGriff Isn’t Worried Toronto Will Repeat Collapse of 1987

Fred McGriff has seen it before. The Toronto Blue Jays lead the AL East by a seemingly comfortable margin, they go on a substantial losing streak and they fail to win the division.

McGriff was on the 1987 Blue Jay team that let the division crown fall out of its hands and into Detroit’s in the final week of the season.

This year . . . could it be happening again? On Aug. 7, the Blue Jays led the division by 6 1/2 games over Detroit and by 11 1/2 over Boston. Toronto proceeded to lose seven of nine and by last night, after Toronto’s 7-5 victory over Detroit, the lead had melted to two over the Tigers and 5 1/2 over Boston. Had the Tigers defeated Toronto last night, the two would be tied for first this morning.

Although McGriff said he keeps in touch with Toronto pitcher Todd Stottlemyre and outfielder Rob Ducey, he said he hasn’t talked with either of them during Toronto’s slide. But he has kept track of it through the box scores.

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“That’s baseball,” McGriff said. “That’s just baseball. Every team struggles. The Dodgers have lost, the Pirates have struggled.

“When you play 162 games, you’re going to have your losses. Whoever wins the World Series is going to have at least 60 losses.”

McGriff said Toronto’s current slump doesn’t remind him of 1987.

“No,” he said. “They’re just losing a few games right now. It’s as simple as that. It’s too early to say anything right now. If it was October again it would be different, but there is still a month-and-a-half to go.”

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McGriff was moved from fourth to fifth in the Padre batting order Saturday night, but only because Atlanta started left-hander Charlie Leibrandt.

Before the game, McGriff wasn’t sure why he was batting fifth.

“You’ve got to talk to (Padre Manager Greg) Riddoch about that,” he said. “I just suit up. He’s the boss.”

McGriff said he prefers batting fourth.

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Riddoch, though, said he likes to move McGriff periodically when the opponent starts a left-hander.

“Once in awhile, we do that against certain left-handers,” Riddoch said. “Or against clubs with a lot of left-handers in the bullpen, so they can’t bring one in to face two or three left-handed batters in a row.”

Padre second baseman Bip Roberts left the clubhouse just before game-time Saturday to have a magnetic resonance imaging test done on his left knee. Roberts was injured during a rundown in the first inning Friday. As of late Saturday night, the results were not available.

Ed Lynch, Padre minor league director, will fly to the Dominican Republic next Sunday for a first-hand look at the club’s facilities there. Lynch, who said he has never been to the Dominican, also said he wants to meet Padre scouts in the area.

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“I’m excited about going down,” Lynch said. “They have a hell of a reservoir of talent down there. Hopefully, we can get our name out there like the Dodgers and Blue Jays.”

Ed Whitson, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow a month ago, threw off the mound again Saturday. For the second day in a row, he threw 30 fastballs.

“I felt better today than (Friday),” Whitson said. “It feels excellent. There is an adhesion (on the inside of the elbow) that needs to pop loose. I already popped one loose. Once this one goes, then I’m going to be ready to open up.”

Whitson said he will throw 30 fastballs a day for about four days and then, if he is still feeling good, bump the total to 50 or 60 pitches a day. He also said he will throw nothing but fastballs for six or seven days and then, if everything is OK, work in some breaking balls.

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