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Gwynn Injury, Loss to Pirates Adds to Padre Gloom : Baseball: Padre Manager Greg Riddoch says team is not certain when the star player will return. The Pirates win, 4-1.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The door to Manager Greg Riddoch’s door stayed closed for more than 20 minutes after the Padres’ 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh Friday night. When it opened, the remainder of Tony Gwynn’s 1991 season was up in the air.

Gwynn, whose left knee has been bothering him since he hurt it sliding in Houston earlier this month, was removed after the seventh inning Friday and it is not certain when he will be back.

Gwynn, Riddoch, batting coach Merv Rettenmund and Padre orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jan Fronek huddled in Riddoch’s office. Afterward Gwynn said he would take today and Sunday off and hope to return Monday.

“It’s just been sore,” said Gwynn, who thinks it is cartilage damage. “I’ll give it a couple of days and see what happens. It just ain’t getting any better.”

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And if rest doesn’t help?

“I’m not thinking about if it doesn’t work,” Gwynn said.

Riddoch said Gwynn’s options were rest, cortisone or surgery.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” Riddoch said. “The knee is bothering him.

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“It’s bad.”

Riddoch said he took Gwynn out because of the way Gwynn hobbled to first base when he put the ball in play throughout the game. Gwynn went zero for three to increase his slump to seven for 41 (.171) over the past 12 games, and Riddoch thought Gwynn was laboring on the basepaths.

“It’s been that way for two weeks,” Riddoch said.

He said it was his idea to remove Gwynn.

“I said, ‘Hey, it’s killing you; I don’t like what I see,’ ” Riddoch said. “He said, ‘Fine.’

“That tells you something when he says fine.”

Said Gwynn: “It’s funny how other people can see it in you but you can’t see it in yourself.”

Gwynn said the Padres’ recent trip, which included four consecutive games on artificial turf, did not help him any.

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This is the second consecutive year in which Gwynn has had trouble near the end of the season. He missed the final 19 games in 1990 with a fractured right index finger.

For the Padres, it is traditional to have trouble at the end of the season.

The Boston Red Sox have Fenway Park. The New York Yankees have those pinstripes.

The Padres are a little young yet, but they have a small tradition they seemingly cling to just as dearly.

Each year, as August fades away and September pennant races begin to heat up, Padre home stands are meaningless. The only way to find a pennant race is to flick on the television, or check out local newspaper stories with another city’s dateline.

Take the home stand the Padres opened on Friday, for instance. They dropped to 9 1/2 games behind first place Atlanta--Atlanta?--in the NL West standings in front of 21,726.

School is starting. Labor Day weekend has arrived. And with another loss, the Padres could reach double-digits in the games-back column.

And the Pirates continue to roll.

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Call them opportunists. They take to the road like George Foreman takes to pork chops--they are 36-27 on the road, the best record in the NL. They have begun a spell in which they are playing 15 of 19 games on the road, and so far they are 3-0. They swept two games from the Dodgers and won Friday’s opener in San Diego.

Call them greedy. The Pirates now have collected an extra-base hit in each of their past 22 games and in 60 of their past 61. Shortstop Jay Bell tripled off Rasmussen to open the third inning leading to one Pirate run. First baseman Lloyd McClendon doubled off Rasmussen to lead off the fourth and set up another Pittsburgh run.

Padre starter Dennis Rasmussen (4-11) lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing two earned runs and six hits. The Padres trailed when he left, 3-0, and the fact that they were getting shut out shouldn’t be too surprising.

Rasmussen has only won once since June 15, that coming Aug. 14. Before that, he had a nine-game losing streak during which the Padres scored two runs or fewer in eight of the games.

Now, Rasmussen and a handful of other Padres rumored to be involved in trade talks will spend an anxious day today wondering if they will still be wearing Padre uniforms tomorrow. Pennant contenders looking to pick up stretch-run help will be making decisions by nightfall because they face a 9 p.m. PDT deadline for setting their post-season rosters.

The night got off to a lousy start for Rasmussen and the Padres when Pittsburgh scored an unearned run in the first. Gary Redus, Pittsburgh’s lead-off batter, grounded to third, but Tim Teufel’s throw was wide of first and Redus ended up on second.

He moved to third on a ground ball and then scored on Bobby Bonilla’s single to center.

The Pirates added another run in the third when Bell led off with the triple and scored on Curtis Wilkerson’s sacrifice fly to left.

Then, in the fourth, McClendon led off with a double and moved to third on a grounder.

Up stepped catcher Don Slaught, who promptly dropped a bunt in front of the plate. McClendon, running on the pitch, scored easily. It was 3-0, Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh starter John Smiley, meanwhile, kept the Padres off-balance until the seventh. Smiley (16-8) retired the first eight Padres and didn’t allow a Padre baserunner past second until Fred McGriff led off the seventh with a home run.

Benito Santiago, the next batter, singled, and then Smiley got Kevin Ward to fly to left before yielding to Pittsburgh reliever Stan Belinda.

Smiley held the Padres to a run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked two.

And this morning, things aren’t looking much better for the Padres. Not with Gwynn’s left knee in the shape it is, and the date of his return uncertain.

“It could be two days or four weeks,” Riddoch said. “Who knows?”


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