When Benes learned about the trade 10 minutes before a game against the Cubs in Chicago, he went into the Padre locker room and cried. As the scheduled starter for the next day's game, he was supposed to keep the pitching chart that night. Instead he took a shower and went back to the hotel. The next day Benes wrote Harris's number, 46, and Hurst's number, 47, on the back of his cap as a tribute, and in one of his best outings of the season—and one of his last effective starts in '93—he tossed a five-hit shutout.
Soon after, Benes lost that focus. "I was a basket case out there," he says. "I didn't get anybody out in September." He had lost three straight heading into a start against the Rockies in Denver on Sept. 22, and then something snapped—and it wasn't his losing streak. In the fifth inning Benes threw a pitch that hit Rocky centerfielder Alex Cole in the side. Without hesitation, plate umpire Bob Davidson ejected Benes. The pitcher started walking toward the Padre dugout, but when he reached the foul line, he turned and headed for Davidson before anyone could derail the Big Train.
"I always pitch Cole the same way, inside; I just wanted to explain myself," says Benes, who was suspended for five games by the league for throwing at Cole. "I was irritated at the ump, and I wasn't going to leave until he listened to me. I was shouting, which is out of character for me. My teammates don't expect me to lose control, but I guess the frustration from everything just built up. I was irritated."
Benes is one of those guys who is usually able to stay a few degrees below the boiling point. He had been thrown out of a game only once before, and that was when he played quarterback for the University of Evansville. In that game, an opposing linebacker kept barreling into him after Benes had released the ball. When the guy hit him late for the fourth time, it was the last time. Benes jumped up and wrestled him to the ground.
"I'm not a troublemaker," says Benes. "I'm not controversial. I'm not Howard Stern." A shock jock he's not, but Benes, who is also the Padre player representative, doesn't hesitate to speak his mind. Last June, when the Padres did not draft his brother, Alan, who was a junior at Creighton University, Benes said, "At least if they had drafted Alan, they would still have a Benes in the organization two years from now." (As it happened, Alan, also a righthanded pitcher, was picked 16th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals; it is only the third time that brothers have been first-round draft picks.)
Benes, who signed a $3 million contract for the '94 season on Jan. 26, will be eligible for free agency after the 1995 season. Even though the Padres were not shopping Benes in the off-season, Smith listened to offers from the Cardinals, the Boston Red Sox, the Montreal Expos, the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies. It figures that the Padres will keep Benes until late in the '94 season, then trade him before he walks away as a free agent.
"He's a good pitcher, a pitcher everybody would like," says Cardinal general manager Dal Maxvill. "He's a power pitcher that you want to see in baseball, somebody who might strike out 12 or 13 guys one night. Fans like that. There aren't many of those guys around."
Conventional wisdom says that under different circumstances Benes, who has a lifetime record of 59-54, would be a lock to win 20 games. Conventional wisdom also says he is one pitch away from becoming one of the game's elite pitchers. The quickness of his cross-seam fastball is Clemens-like, and his breaking ball is deceptive, but his changeup needs work.
On the other hand, Benes's path to becoming a power pitcher has been anything but conventional. The former high school shortstop truly learned how to throw off a mound only when he was on a football-baseball scholarship at Evansville. Because he came to the Padres after only four months in the minors, Benes is still developing into a major league talent.
"Andy's a horse. He goes out every fifth day and does his work no matter how he feels," says former Padre G.M. Joe McIlvaine, who is now with the Mets. "He can be as successful as any pitcher in the league. He has the ability to rise above the adversities that come to every pitcher."