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PADRES UPDATE : NOTEBOOK / BOB NIGHTENGALE : McIlvaine Meets With Whitson

Joe McIlvaine, Padre general manager, had a spontaneous meeting Thursday afternoon with pitcher Ed Whitson in the middle of the Padre clubhouse to discuss the right-hander’s contract status.

McIlvaine informed Whitson that it’s nothing personal, but only good business sense the club is delaying its decision involving his contract. Whitson, the Padres’ 1990 pitcher of the year, is perturbed that the decision has not been made.

“He’s got to know that if his arm is still attached to his shoulder,” McIlvaine said, “there’s a good chance we’ll bring him back. This isn’t gum cards or Rotisserie baseball. This is real baseball.

“This is real money we’re talking about.”

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The Padres have a one-year option for Whitson in 1992 that will pay him $1 million. Whitson gets $250,000 if the team does not exercise the option. Whitson had elbow surgery July15 and has not pitched in a game, so McIlvaine wants to be cautious.

“Basically, it’s a simple thing,” McIlvaine said. “If you’re going to hand a guy a million dollars, you want to make sure he’s healthy. You’re talking about $1 million, not $2.50. Can you see me telling my owner that we’re giving him $1 million and he can’t pitch again?”

Whitson wants to know if the Padres plan to bring him back. If not, he might have to rush his rehabilitation to show clubs he still can pitch.

“We can’t get though his head,” McIlvaine said, “before we hand him a million dollars, we’d like to see him pitch. Really, it’s a non-issue.”

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In fact, the Padres privately have decided to bring Whitson back next season. They simply want to be assured his injury is not career-threatening before they exercise the option.

“I’m not going to bring it up any more,” Whitson said. “I’ll let them do the talking.”

Padre outfielder Jerald Clark knew he was in trouble Thursday afternoon when he saw Cardinal third baseman Todd Zeile quickly scoop up his hard-hit grounder.

The immediate thought was that he had hit into a double play. After all, Oscar Azocar was on second base and Tim Teufel was on first.

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“When I saw him field it,” Clark said, “I thought I’d better go hard to first and beat it out. I figured he’d tag (Azocar) out at third, and throw to first.

“When I saw I didn’t beat the throw, I saw Teufel slide at second, and I was wondering why he was sliding. Then I thought, ‘Oh, no!’ ”

Yes, Clark hit into the seventh triple play in Padre history, stunning a crowd of 10,097 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

“It’s just the way my luck’s been going,” Clark said. “If it’s going to happen to somebody on the team, it was going to happen to me.”

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It was the second time this season the Padres have hit into a triple play, the last occurring April28 at Philadelphia when Tony Gwynn lined to second baseman Randy Ready.

“I thought we had a good chance (of turning the triple play) when he hit it,” said Cardinal first baseman Pedro Guerrero, “but I didn’t know how close Zeile was to third base.”

How did Clark cope? After the game ended, Clark was seen taking extra batting practice, trying to end his 0-for-12 slump.

“I don’t want to hit into any more of those,” Clark said.

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Padre pitcher Greg Harris committed his first error in the major leagues when he booted Geronimo Pena’s ground ball in the eighth inning. . . . Cardinal catcher Tom Pagnozzi has eight stolen bases this season. If he reached 10 stolen bases, the Cardinals will become the first team since the 1912 Washington Senators to have 10 players steal 10 or more bases. ... Pagnozzi, who has six career homers, all at Busch Stadium, on the news the Cardinals are moving in the outfield fence: “They ought to move the other ones in.” . . . The primary reason the Cardinals are moving in their fences is to lure free agents, and they will be focusing on Wally Joyner of the Angels and Bobby Bonilla of Pirates this winter. Joyner, however, privately has told friends that he already is planning on joining the Cardinals.


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