BASEBALL WINTER MEETINGS : Gwynn Might Play First Base, Lasorda Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With the Dodgers frustrated in their efforts to replace Eddie Murray, Manager Tom Lasorda Tuesday said that outfielder Chris Gwynn is in line to become the team's next first baseman.

If no veteran first baseman is acquired, Gwynn will be the leading candidate for the full-time job this spring. He might platoon with prospect Eric Karros.

"There is a possibility Gwynn will be our first baseman," Lasorda said from his Fullerton home. Lasorda is absent from the winter meetings for the first time because his wife, Jo, had back surgery.

"(Gwynn) has the chance to be an outstanding hitter if he plays every day," Lasorda said. "We'd like to give him that chance."

Gwynn, who hit five home runs and drove in 22 runs in 139 at-bats last season, said he stands by his trade demand.

"My whole comment is, 'Wait and see,' " Gwynn said. "I know they are actively looking for a guy to play first. I talked to Tommy, sure, and he told me he thinks I can do it.

"If they still want me to play first base when spring training starts, and they haven't been able to trade me where I can play outfield every day, then I would love to play first here. But I won't get my mind set on it yet."

Lasorda also confirmed that if Juan Samuel surprises the Dodgers for a second consecutive season and accepts arbitration next week, he will be the second baseman.

This would create a logjam at third base and could mean a trade of Lenny Harris, who, as does Dave Hansen, bats left-handed. Or Hansen could move to first base. The Dodgers have reportedly begun trade talks with the New York Yankees that involve Harris and first baseman Kevin Maas.

Fred Claire, Dodger vice president, has seemingly given up acquiring a first baseman through a trade of Kal Daniels, but said he will continue to attempt to do so after leaving the meetings today.

Outfielder Bobby Bonilla said he was disturbed by the criticism that Whitey Herzog of the Angels leveled at Bonilla's agent, Dennis Gilbert.

Bonilla denied using the Angels' $27.5-million offer to get a $29-million deal with the New York Mets. "In the first place, I make the decisions," Bonilla said. "I told Dennis, 'If we can't get it done on the East Coast, then California is it.' What is free agency all about, anyway?"

Sources say the Dodgers are near a decision to return coach Joe Ferguson to the field to fill the vacancy created when Bill Russell agreed to manage triple-A Albuquerque. Ferguson, the Dodgers' press box scout, might become the first base coach, with Ben Hines moving to the dugout to become the bench coach.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers signed free-agent catcher Don Wakamatsu to a triple-A contract. In 18 games with the Chicago White Sox last season, Wakamatsu was knuckleballer Charlie Hough's personal catcher and is currently catching the Dodgers' Tom Candiotti in winter workouts in northern California.

Mariano Duncan, a former unhappy Dodger infielder who spent the last two seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, signed a guaranteed two-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies for $4 million with a $2.2 million option year.

Alfredo Griffin is reportedly close to signing a multiyear deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Times staff writer Ross Newhan contributed to this story.

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