PADRES UPDATE : NOTEBOOK / BOB NIGHTENGALE : New York's Cone Expresses Interest in Coming to Padres as Free Agent

The Padres for years have sought a bona fide ace of the pitching staff. They want someone who is capable of winning 20 games a season.

If the Padres have the money, New York Mets right-hander David Cone has the interest.

"Oh, yeah, I'd definitely like to go there," said Cone, who is eligible for free agency in three months. "San Diego, what a place to play. The thing is, I know (Padre General Manager) Joe McIlvaine real well.

"It'd be great."

Many baseball executives and scouts consider Cone the finest pitcher in the National League. Sure, Atlanta pitcher Tom Glavine has more victories. Doug Drabek of Pittsburgh is more consistent.

But no one has nastier stuff.

"To me," Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn said, "he's the absolute best. I hate facing that guy."

Cone, 11-4 with a 2.60 ERA this season, can be found among the leaders in virtually every pitching statistic. He leads the league with 177 strikeouts, is tied for the league lead with seven complete games, is tied for the league lead with five shutouts and is third with 155 2/3 innings.

"I've got to concentrate on winning for the Mets this season," Cone said, "but I'm keeping my options wide open. I know I won't be signing with the Mets before the year's over, so I'll be giving the Padres a shot, believe me.

"The biggest obstacle, I keep hearing, is their budget."

Although no one knows what Cone will command in the free agent market, he is expected to receive at least $26.5 million over five years--the same contract pitcher Greg Maddux recently turned down from the Chicago Cubs.

"That sure didn't hurt me," Cone said.

Padre bullpen stopper Randy Myers had one of his finest outings of the season Saturday, pitching a 1-2-3 ninth inning. He never even reached three balls on one batter.

The secret? Who knows.

But at 4:30 in the morning Saturday, Myers could be heard on CBS radio giving an interview.

"Hey, I taped it at 1," Myers protested, "because I had to be in bed at 1:30."

The Ex-Padre Player of the Week award goes to pitcher Omar Olivares of the St. Louis Cardinals, who hit a game-winning two-run homer against the Cincinnati Reds.

Only three hours after a team meeting to go over the bunt signs, Olivares mistook a bunt sign for a hit-away sign and sent one over the fence off Tim Belcher.

"I was looking for the bunt sign," Olivares said. "They confused me."

Where Are They Now Dept.: Jerry Kapstein, the son-in-law of former Padre owner Joan Kroc, can be found these days donating his time at the downtown Salvation Army for the homeless.

Kapstein, who retreated from the public eye when the Padres were sold, has remarried his ex-wife, Linda Smith, and is living happily in San Diego.

"He's as happy as I've seen him," said one of his friends. "He's still almost a recluse, but he's doing great."

Although Padre rookie starter Frank Seminara was the losing pitcher Friday night against the Mets, his performance leaves the Padres believing they have at least four solid starters for the duration of the season.

Seminara (5-3) allowed only two earned runs in seven innings against the Mets, and Manager Greg Riddoch is convinced the team has found its No. 4 starter.

"I think we've found one," Riddoch said. "He's been absolutely outstanding. What a gutsy kid. It's taken a while, but who knows, we may be on the verge of finally having five starters."

How unusual was Atlanta shortstop Jeff Blauser's recent three-homer game in Chicago?

* Blauser had hit only four home runs all year, was batting .209. "I didn't think I'd ever get three at-bats in a game this year," he said.

* Only three other shortstops in history hit three homers in a game--Ernie Banks, Barry Larkin and Freddie Patek.

* Blauser had hit only 39 homers in his career. Since divisional play, only five National League players owned fewer career homers before producing their first three-home run game: Mike Lum, Davey Lopes, Larry Parrish, Darnell Coles and Jeff Treadway.

* It's the third time in Blauser's career that he has had a multiple-homer game, and all have come at Wrigley Field.

"You know, I've always heard the Cubs might want to trade for me," Blauser said. "But I don't know if it's because they really want me or they just don't want me playing against them."

Met starter Sid Fernandez's shutout was the seventh by a Met starter this season and the 10th by the Mets pitching staff.

Rookie catcher Todd Hundley has been behind the plate in all 10 shutouts.

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