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Benes Flies Into a Rage at Contract : Padres: Pitcher criticizes McIlvaine, calls his salary “not fair, not fair at all.”

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Enraged at the Padres for renewing his contract Wednesday, starting pitcher Andy Benes said he already is looking forward to free agency and will remain bitter toward the organization.

“I’ll have my day in (arbitration) court,” Benes said. “Three times. Then, I’m walking. And I’m walking freely.

“It’s obvious they don’t have long-term plans for me, anyway.”

Benes, the Padres’ pitcher of the year in 1991 with a 15-11 record and 3.03 ERA, became enraged when the Padres announced they would renew his contract. Players who do not have enough service to qualify for arbitration can have their contracts renewed at a salary determined by their employers.

Neither he nor his agent, Scott Boras, knew the amount at which it would be renewed, but they were told earlier in the day it would be $375,000. Padre General Manager Joe McIlvaine refused to disclose the salary.

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“I’m very bitter with what’s going on,” said Benes, who’ll be eligible for arbitration the first time in January, 1993. “You better believe I’ll never forget it. I don’t care if I go to arbitration and win the next three years, I’m never going to forget how they shafted me.

“I’ve done everything they’ve wanted. I’ve pitched my heart out for them. I’ve even done all the community relations work they wanted.

“Well, make that past tense, because those days are over, too.”

Benes, who wanted to be paid close to the $725,000 salary the Dodgers paid starter Ramon Martinez, was agitated the salary disparity became larger in the past season. Martinez made $485,000 in 1991; Benes earned $235,000.

“I had a better year than Martinez, and they pay me less,” Benes said. “Figure that one out.

“It’s not fair, not fair at all. I’m not going to sign for less than half of what I’m worth. That’s insane. If they had offered me $500,000, I would have signed

“But not for this.”

Said McIlvaine: “I don’t have any apologizing to do. We thought we offered what was fair. But obviously he didn’t agree. You always like to think you could work things out, but that’s the plight of the two-year player.

“I hope he has a good a season as possible, if he feels slighted. That’s the best way, to go out on the field and do it. That’s OK by me.”

McIlvaine gave Benes the option Wednesday of signing for $425,000 or being renewed at $375,000. Benes, wanting to take a stand, refused to sign.

“How can I sign that?” Benes said. “Would you sign a contract paying you not even half of what you’re worth? It’s ludicrous. It’s ridiculous. It’s insane.

“And the thing that aggravated me the most was that they didn’t even give me an offer until the day before the deadline. That’s negotiating in good faith. How fair is that?

“I’m in total disbelief.”

Although it’s easily the most upset he has been since signing with the Padres as their top pick in 1988, Benes said he would not walk out of camp in protest.

“I don’t have anything against my coaches,” said Benes, who has 2 years 54 days of major league service. “I don’t have anything against my teammates. They all understand. It’s just the organization has me very bitter.”

The Padres signed or renewed all of their remaining players Wednesday with the exception of outfielder Oscar Azocar, who’s detained in Venezuela and acts as his agent. They renewed outfielder Jim Vatcher and signed pitchers Rich Rodriguez and Jose Melendez and infielders Guillermo Velasquez and Ray Holbert.

It’s the first time since 1990 that the Padres have renewed players’ contracts. They last renewed the contracts of catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. and first baseman Phil Stephenson.

The last time McIlvaine renewed any players also was in 1990 when he was with the New York Mets and renewed the contracts of Kevin Elster and Mackey Sasser.

Despite the frustration over his contract, Benes still was comforted by the fact Wednesday he threw off the mound for the first time this spring.

Benes, who underwent lower abdomen surgery two weeks ago, pitched freely without pain, and is hopeful of at least pitching batting practice by the end of the week.

“I didn’t feel any problems, at all,” Benes said. “My arm felt good, and my waist was fine, so that’s not going to be anything to worry about.”

Said pitching coach Mike Roarke: “He threw nice and easy, pain-free. Everything’s right on schedule for him. By the time the season starts, he’ll be fine.”


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