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Gwynn Advised to Have Surgery : Baseball: He gets bad news on knee while Santiago delivers good news in Padres’ 3-1 victory over St. Louis.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn was advised by team doctors Thursday to undergo immediate surgery on his left knee and miss the remainder of the season.

Gwynn, who confirmed Dr. Jan Fronek’s prognosis Thursday night, has scheduled an appointment this morning at Scripps Clinic during which he’ll decide whether to have surgery this week or next month.

“There’s no way of avoiding it,” Gwynn said. “I’m going to have it sooner or later. I’ve got to let them know (today).”

Gwynn’s is indecisive because he’s not ready to abandon this season. The Padres won again Thursday, 3-1, over the St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, and still cling to faint hopes of being in the division race.

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The victory, sparked by Benito Santiago’s pinch-hit, two-run single in the eighth inning, was the Padres’ ninth in their past 13 games. It pushed the Padres into third place, percentage points ahead of the Cincinnati Reds, eight games behind the first-place Dodgers. The Cardinals fell to a season-high 9 1/2 games behind the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL East.

“That’s what makes it so tough,” Gwynn said. “From (the doctors’) perspective, they’re asking me, ‘Do you feel the club has a realistic chance to win the division?’

“You look at it, and realistically, the answer is no. But possibly, yes. So you have to ask yourself, ‘Do you want to try for the rest of the year, or be ready next year?

“Which is really a stupid question because you know what my answer is.”

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The Padres are prepared to carry on without Gwynn. He underwent a magnetic resonance imaging test Thursday afternoon that revealed fluid on his knee, a sign that the cartilage is severely damaged.

Gwynn simply would like to know if it’s possible he would damage the knee further by continuing to play. If doctors inform him today that his knee can deteriorate without surgery, Gwynn will have no choice but to undergo arthroscopic surgery.

“Obviously, I feel like it’s my decision,” Gwynn said, “but ultimately it may not be up to me. They have quite a bit of money invested in me, and they don’t want to see anything happen.

“These guys are pretty set, and they’ve expressed how they feel.”

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The injury, which occurred when Gwynn slid hard into second base Aug. 5 in Houston, largely is responsible for Gwynn’s slump the second half of the season. He was batting .358 at the All-Star break but has slumped to .325.

“I don’t want to go out this way,” Gwynn said, “I really don’t. I’ve got pride in what I do, and I think I can do better than what I’ve done since the All-Star break.

“Nobody was complaining when I was playing a month with (the injury). Not that I was doing great, but I was there.

“It’s a thing where you can deal with soreness, but when you get to the point where it hurts to bend your leg, in what feels like popping and clicking in there, you know something is happening.”

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Said John Boggs, Gwynn’s best friend and agent: “The critical issue is whether it could cause further damage, but Tony wants to play so badly. He was so frustrated last year when he broke his finger and couldn’t finish it out, and he doesn’t want it happening again.”

Friends have advised Gwynn that if he continues to play, he might cost himself a chance at his fifth batting title. Gwynn says he could care less and doesn’t believe his league-leading .325 batting average will hold up, anyway.

“I just want to play, that’s all,” Gwynn said. “But I just don’t know if that’s possible. It doesn’t look good.”

If Gwynn is out for the season, the Padres will have to rely more than ever on their pitching, which was stellar once again Thursday. Greg Harris became the third consecutive Padre starter to allow one run in his stint. It was the seventh time in the past nine games the staff has allowed two or fewer runs in nine innings.

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The overriding question this time, however, was whether the one run was going to be all the Cardinals would need to beat the Padres.

Cardinal second baseman Geronimo Pena hit a homer in the third, and the Padres remained frustrated for seven innings.

The Padres appeared to have a rally started in the third inning, only to have it extinguished when Jerald Clark hit into a 5-4-3 triple play. In the sixth inning, Fred McGriff looked like he had hit a two-run homer, only to have left fielder Milt Thompson reached over the wall and rob him.

It set the stage for the dramatic eighth inning. The Cardinals lifted starter Bryn Smith in the top of the inning for a pinch-hitter, but they failed to score. Reliever Scott Terry entered to work the bottom half.

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With one out, pinch-hitter Tom Lampkin blooped a double to left and was removed for pinch-runner Paul Faries. Tony Fernandez, who went three for four, then hit a ball to the right side of the infield. It looked like it was going to squirt into right field, but Pena knocked the ball down, keeping Faries at third.

Fernandez then stole second base, which prompted Terry to intentionally walk Jack Howell, loading the bases. That brought up Darrin Jackson, who hit a fly ball to shallow center. Faries was tempted to try to tag up, but third base coach Bruce Kimm made sure he stayed put, knowing that McGriff was up next.

The Cardinals brought in left-hander Bob McClure to face McGriff. It was good strategy, McGriff admitted, since he considers McClure one of the league’s top lefties. But McClure couldn’t throw a strike and forced in the tying run by walking McGriff on five pitches.

Oscar Azocar was due up, but Padre Manager Greg Riddoch called for a pinch-hitter. The crowd of 10,097 started to chant, “Tony, Tony, Tony,” but Gwynn already had left the stadium to have his knee examined. The batter was Santiago, who has become Padre fans’ favorite villain for recently calling them stupid.

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“I’m not going to take back what I said,” Santiago said. “I just said the truth. Sometimes, the truth hurts.”

Cardinal reliever Cris Carpenter, knowing Santiago’s tendency to chase bad pitches, threw him an outside slider. Santiago swung anyway and lashed a single into left field to score Fernandez and Howell.

Just like that, Santiago was a fan favorite again.

“I’m feeling good right now, maybe the best I’ve felt all year,” Santiago said. “I know I should be tired this time of the year, but I feel great. You think it’s showing?”

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You better believe it. Santiago has driven in 10 runs in his past five games and has 68 RBIs for the season, only 11 fewer than his career high set in 1987.

Harris has been the most dominant pitcher on the staff, yielding a 1.59 ERA his past seven starts. He has proven he belongs in the starting rotation.

“I want to be a serious mainstay in the rotation,” Harris said. “I don’t want them to have one thought in their mind of putting me back in the bullpen.”

Joe McIlvaine, Padre general manager, said Harris can be assured that won’t happen in the near future.

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“I really like what I’m seeing,” McIvlaine said. “This team is playing the best it has this season. And we’re playing without good people. It’s a sign of a good people when you have different players pick you up.”

Gwynn wishes he could be one of those players.


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