After five years of being touted by the Padres as an outfielder of the future, that role became even more defined for Jerald Clark on Tuesday--as an outfielder of the Colorado Rockies’ future.
Clark was snapped up as the Rockies’ fourth pick in the first round in the National League expansion draft. The Padres also lost double-A pitchers Lance Painter (Colorado, second round) and Scott Fredrickson (Colorado, third round).
“The toughest loss might be Painter in the long run,” said Joe McIlvaine, Padre General Manager. “And Jerald for the immediate (future).”
For Clark, whose career never took off as expected, it is a chance to start over without the increasing baggage of past disappointments.
“This is good news to me,” Clark said. “Great news. I was wondering what was going to happen to me when I was left unprotected.
“I was a little shocked and disappointed, but disappointment is part of this game. . . . It just seems with the Padres, economic things got in the way.”
The Padres chose to leave Clark unprotected because, among other reasons, he is eligible for salary arbitration this winter and, at 29, he getting a bit old for “prospect” status. Clark, who made $200,000 in 1992, batted only .242 with 12 homers and 58 RBIs in 1992.
“You have to take all factors,” McIlvaine said. “Salary, salary arbitration, what we got out of him this year.”
In terms of dollars, McIlvaine said, Clark’s departure may allow the Padres to keep center fielder Darrin Jackson, who made $805,000 in 1992 and is also eligible for arbitration this winter.
“I certainly hope so,” McIlvaine said. “That’s what we’re striving for.”
Clark never posted the numbers expected by the Padres. After being handed the starting left-field job in spring training, he eventually lost it because of a horrendously slow start.
Through late June, Clark was hitting only .192 with four homers and 15 RBIs. He heated up, though, and batted .283 with eight homers and 43 RBIs the rest of the way.
Clark said that he talked by telephone with Colorado Manager Don Baylor and was told that he would play left field for the Rockies. As of early Tuesday evening, he had not heard from anyone in the Padre administration.
“I haven’t heard from anyone,” Clark said. “I came to my own conclusion, which wasn’t a good one.
“My thought is that they just want to get somebody else and see what they can do. What I did for the Padres last year and the years before wasn’t up to their standards.”
Indeed, the Padres believe that Darrell Sherman is almost ready to replace Clark in the lineup. Sherman, who batted .286 for triple-A Las Vegas last season with 22 homers and 26 stolen bases, has been groomed by the Padres as a leadoff hitter.
This, too, figured into the club’s decision to leave Clark unprotected.
“He’s 29 years old--do you take him or Sherman?” McIlvaine asked. “Sherman is 23 and we think he has a nice future.”
The Padres are so high on Sherman that they sent him to play in Puerto Rico this winter, according to McIlvaine, “to put the finishing touches on him.”
Painter, a 25-year-old left-hander, was 10-5 with a 3.53 earned-run average for double-A Wichita this season.
“I can’t say I was surprised, but when they’re up there and they say, ‘Colorado selects San Diego left-handed pitcher Lance Painter’ it makes you sit up in your seat,” said Ed Lynch, the Padres’ director of minor leagues. “It’s disappointing, but we’re happy for Lance. It’s a mixed blessing.”
Fredrickson, a 25-year-old right-hander, was 4-7 with a 3.19 ERA and five saves for Wichita in 1992. He worked mainly as a middle reliever and closer.
The Padres were able to add three players to their protected list after Clark was taken and three more after Painter’s selection. Although major league rules forbid the releasing of names, McIlvaine said all six players pulled back by the Padres were pitchers.
“We really tried to safeguard our young arms,” McIlvaine said.
An older arm, Bruce Hurst, went unclaimed after apparently being left unprotected through at least the first round. The Rockies and Marlins were apparently scared off because of Hurst’s shoulder surgery this winter and $2.75-million contract.
“They were worried,” McIlvaine said. “I think it is kind of a wait-and-see proposition.”
It was no coincidence that all three Padres picked in the expansion draft were taken by Colorado. Randy Smith, the Rockies’ assistant general manager, is the Padres’ former director of scouting.
“Randy Smith, of course, knows our young players extremely well,” McIlvaine said. “We felt we had to safeguard against that. . . .
“It’s like the Miami people, who all worked for Montreal. They know the Expo players. It’s kind of like insider trading. When they know a little bit more, you’ve got to be more protective.”
And to that extent, McIlvaine wasn’t all displeased with the draft. If he had known a week ago that the team would lose Clark, Painter and Fredrickson, he said he wouldn’t have been too upset.
“I could handle that, I think,” McIlvaine said. “The one that hurt the most in my mind was Painter--he was close to being ready.”
Jim Tatum, a Santana High alumnus who was the American Assn.'s most valuable player in 1992 for triple-A Denver, was Colorado’s 22nd choice. Tatum, a third baseman who batted .329 with 19 homers and 101 RBIs at Denver, was called up by Milwaukee in September, where he batted .125 with no homers and no RBIs. Tatum, the 1984 San Diego Section player of the year, is playing winter ball in Puerta la Cruz, Venezuela, and could not be reached for comment.