Rookies May Help Decide Pennants

United Press International

One has the quick hands of a pickpocket and another makes his living by stealing.

There's one with the same name as a famous football player and another who is a tall, left-handed hitter with the same first name as a tall, left-handed hitting millionaire of the New York Mets.

They are all among a group of talented rookies who may have an impact on the pennant races in the two major leagues this season.

Seldom does a team, especially one that considers itself a contender, pencil in two rookies to be starters, but the Chicago White Sox may do exactly that this year.

Ozzie Guillen, a 21-year-old shortstop with lightning quick hands, and Daryl Boston, a lanky 22-year-old left-handed hitting center fielder, may be in the starting lineup for the White Sox when they open the season against the Milwaukee Brewers.

"Right now I can't say either one has the club made, but they both have great ability," says White Sox Manager Tony LaRussa. "We don't want to push them. I've seen young players pushed and end up destroyed.

"We're not looking at either of these guys carrying our club, so that will work to their advantage. We have basically a veteran club and that will help them progress at their own pace."

Guillen, obtained from the San Diego Padres, has impressed LaRussa with his soft hands and quick bat. A native of Venezuela, Guillen hit .296 for Denver of the American Association last year and made fewer errors (17) than anyone in the league.

"He's got a nice soft pair of hands and he gets off the ball well," said White Sox' coach Ed Brinkman, one of the best shortstops in the game during his playing days. "He also can sting the ball pretty well. He can help us at the plate."

Boston also played at Denver last year and compiled some eye-opening statistics. He hit .312 with 15 home runs, 21 doubles, a league-leading 19 triples, 40 stolen bases and 82 RBIs.

"There isn't anything on the field he can't do," said LaRussa. "He's got a real good arm and real good speed. Defensively, he can be a real good center fielder.

"Offensively, he's got home run potential. He's going to get stronger as he gets older."

The crosstown Cubs have perhaps the most celebrated rookie in Shawon Dunston, a hard-hitting shortstop. Dunston, 22, is being groomed to take over the Cubs' No. 1 shortstop job but he may open the season in the minor leagues.

Dunston hit .329 in 73 games at Midland, Texas, of the Texas League but hit only .233 in 61 games with Iowa of the American Association. He feels he is ready for the major league test, but the Cubs aren't so sure.

"I think he will be with the club someday. That may come at the start of the regular season, it may come in July or it may come next year," said Cubs' manager Jim Frey.

"The most important thing is that Shawon be as ready as possible whenever we need him."

Another of the top rookie prospects may not get a chance to prove himself for awhile. That's Vince Coleman of the St. Louis Cardinals, the leading base stealer in organized baseball over the last two seasons.

Despite the fact he stole 101 bases for Louisville of the American Assn. last year, Coleman, 23, probably will be back in the minors at the start of the season because he can't crack the Cardinals' starting outfield of Lonnie Smith, Willie McGee and Jack Clark.

"If he could start in our outfield he'd probably be National League Rookie of the Year," says Cardinals' Manager Whitey Herzog. "But he's too young to sit on the bench. He's got to play so we'll probably send him to Louisville then recall him later in the season."

Never mind Coleman. The Pittsburgh Pirates think they've got the Rookie of the Year in right-hander Mike Bielecki.

The 25-year-old Bielecki, named Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America, posted a 19-3 record with a 2.97 ERA for Hawaii last season and led the Pacific Coast League in victories and strikeouts.

"He's going to surprise a lot of people and might even be Rookie of the Year," says Pirate catcher Tony Pena. "He's a type of pitcher like Jose DeLeon."

The New York Mets and Montreal Expos also boast rookie pitchers who figure to make an impact on their club's success.

Calvin Schiraldi, a 22-year-old right-hander who was named the Most Valuable Player in the Texas League last season, figures to crack the Mets' starting rotation. Schiraldi was 14-3 with a 2.88 ERA with Jackson then went 3-1 at Tidewater of the International League before being promoted to the Mets in September.

The Expos are excited over Joe Hesketh, a 26-year-old left-hander who won the Allie Reynolds Award as the Pitcher of the Year in the American Association in 1984. Hesketh was second in victories (12), ERA (3.05) and led in winning percentage (.800) despite missing the final month after being recalled by the Expos.

The Expos also expect big things this season from Herm Winningham. The 24-year-old Winningham, acquired in the trade that sent Gary Carter to the Mets, hit .281 at Tidewater of the International League last year and could be the Expos' starting center fielder.

The Houston Astros would love to make room in their infield for Glenn Davis. No, not the former Army football player. This Glenn Davis is a power-hitting first baseman who slugged 16 homers and knocked in 94 runs at Tucson of the PCL last year. In his four seasons of professional baseball, Davis, 23, has hit 73 homers and knocked in 317 runs.

Two other rookie power hitters who have attracted attention in spring training are outfielder John Russell of the Philadelphia Phillies and Larry Sheets of the Baltimore Orioles.

Russell, 24, could end up as the Phillies' regular right fielder by the end of the season if he continues to show the kind of power he did in the minors last season. He hit 19 homers and knocked in 77 runs for Portland of the PCL.

Sheets, 25, impressed the Orioles this past winter by hitting .400 on the club's trip to Japan. A left-handed hitter, he batted .302 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs for Rochester of the International League last year. He has impressed with his long ball hitting in spring training and could earn a regular job platooning with Lee Lacy in right field or as a left-handed hitting designated hitter.

Fritz Connally, a third baseman acquired from the Cubs during the off-season, also has turned a few heads with his play during the exhibition season. Connally, 26, has been one of the Orioles' leading hitters during the spring and may end up platooning with Wayne Gross at third base.

Another third baseman who figures to earn a starting berth is Chris Brown of the San Francisco Giants. Giants' fans haven't seen third base played so expertly since Jim Davenport, now the team's manager, patroled the area in the 1960s.

Brown, 23, also hit a solid .283 in his first triple-A campaign for Phoenix last season.

Other rookies to watch closely include outfielder Tommy Dunbar of Texas, outfielder Ivan Calderon of Seattle, pitcher Milt Thompson of Atlanta and shortstop Steve Jeltz of Philadelphia.

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