Padres Ready to Deal : Baseball: Teufel and Lefferts, heroes of the Padres’ 2-1 victory over the Cardinals, could be headed for the American League.
Padre infielder Tim Teufel and reliever Craig Lefferts have experienced virtually everything in this game. They’ve been in the World Series; they’ve been on last-place clubs. They’ve had success; they’ve had misery.
Now, after becoming best of friends, the veterans share their greatest fear and apprehension:
The possibility of being traded.
Teufel and Lefferts, whose heroics Wednesday night led the Padres to a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, wonder just how long they’ll remain teammates.
Teufel, whose fifth-inning home run helped provide Padre Manager Greg Riddoch his 100th career victory, might be traded to the Minnesota Twins within the next 72 hours.
The Padres, according to an American League source, have had trade talks with the Twins the past few days, discussing a deal that would send Teufel to the Twins for pitching prospects.
The Padres are leery of trading Teufel, who is in midst of one of the finest hitting tears of his career. In the past four games, he’s hitting .500 (seven for 14) with one triple, three homers, and six RBIs.
Yet, the Padres also realize he’s eligible for free agency at the season’s conclusion, and if they so desired, could always bring him back as a free agent for the 1992 season.
“If I get traded, the Twins would be my first choice,” said Teufel, who was drafted by and played three seasons for the Twins before being traded to the New York Mets in 1986. “I loved playing there, and hey, they’re in first place, aren’t they?
“Who knows what will happen? If I’m in their plans, management here will show me. If they don’t want me, they’ll tell me.
“Since I’m a free agent, I’ll be able to tell just how much teams might want me.”
Joe McIlvaine, Padre general manager, was unavailable to confirm the trade talks. The Twins’ interest was revealed by the presence of Mike Radcliff, the Twins’ regional scouting supervisor, who was in St. Louis specifically to scout Teufel.
While Teufel might be ambivalent about being traded, particularly since his off-season home is in Greenwich, Conn., Lefferts is adamant about wanting to stay. He just had a custom-designed home built in Poway three months ago, only to find out he soon might be moving.
The Boston Red Sox, sources say, are very interested in Lefferts, but are trying to determine whether it’s too late for them to get back in the American League East race. The Red Sox are 5 1/2 games out of first place, and have two teams to catch. They may just decide to wait until the winter to find a left-hander out of the bullpen.
If the Red Sox do decide to trade third baseman Scott Cooper for Lefferts, however, they may not have chosen a better time.
Lefferts recorded his second consecutive save by coming into the game with one out in the ninth, and runners on first and third. Lefferts threw two pitches, retired Milt Thompson on a double-play grounder to shortstop Tony Fernandez, and preserved Bruce Hurst’s victory, his 15th of the season.
The stage was set in the ninth inning with the score tied at 1-1. Padre pinch-hitter Oscar Azocar led off the top of the ninth with a bouncer toward second base. Cardinal second baseman Jose Oquendo picked up the ball, but his throw to first baseman Pedro Guerrero was in the dirt.
Azocar crossed the bag safely for a hit, and then watched Guerrero swat the ball into right field. Azocar kept running, took second, and slid in safely at third just ahead of Felix Jose’s throw. After Tony Fernandez struck out and Tony Gwynn was intentionally walked, Fred McGriff then hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Azocar.
Now, it was up to Hurst, who had allowed only five hits through the first eight innings. In fact, the Cardinals’ lone run came in the third when Rex Hudler scored on catcher Benito Santiago’s throwing error.
Todd Zeile led off the Cardinal ninth with a routine grounder to shortstop Fernandez. He fielded it cleanly, but threw high to McGriff, and Zeile was safe. Guerrero followed by hitting a hard grounder down the third-base line, but Jack Howell made a diving grab, and was able to force Zeile at first. Hurst then got himself in real trouble when Jose hit a bouncer into right field, sending pinch-runner Geronimo Pena to third.
Riddoch came to the mound, told Hurst that he looked like he was tired, and Hurst agreed. He called for Lefferts, who blew a save the last time Hurst pitched, in Chicago.
“It’s never easy for us,” Hurst said. “The last three outs have given us more trouble than the first 24. I decided not to be a hero, I just wanted the win.”
Lefferts sprinted from the bullpen, threw eight warmup pitches, and already had worked up more of a sweat than he would during this outing. His first pitch was a fastball away, and Thompson swung and missed. The next was a fastball inside, Thompson swung, and hit a weak grounder to Fernandez.
Fernandez ran to the second-base bag, forcing Jose, and completed the double-play with his throw to first. The crowd of 20,479 at Busch Stadium went silent.
“I’m throwing the ball so much better now,” said Lefferts, who has been nearly perfect in his past two save opportunities. “My confidence is so much better. Really, it feels great.”
The question remaining is whether Lefferts will be pitching for the Padres next week. Playoff rosters must be submitted by 9 p.m. (PST) Saturday, and if Lefferts still is around that evening, he likely will be safe from any trade talk until the winter.
“I know my name’s been out there,” Lefferts said, “but I’m not going to let it be a distraction. San Diego is home. I love it there, and I love this team.
“But I’ve been traded before, so I’m not going to worry about it. God will put me where he wants to.
“The funny thing is that the last time I built a house in San Diego, I got traded one month later. Now, it might happen again.
“I don’t think I’ll be building any more houses.”