Three Making Stop at Oasis Known as Reno

Known as the biggest little city in the world, Reno has a similarly confounding image in the realm of minor league baseball.

Considering the Reno Silver Sox are a single-A co-op independent team and the only out-of-state participant in the otherwise all-Californian California League, Reno's rung on the professional baseball ladder is not near the top.

But as three former San Diego high school products can attest, Reno can be an oasis . . . providing you don't stay too long.

Dom Johnson, known locally for having been part of Poway High's three consecutive basketball championships teams from 1984 to 1986, has spent the past four months on loan to Reno. The San Francisco Giant organization sent him there to rehabilitate his pitching shoulder, which required surgery in September.

Originally, the Giants thought that Johnson would miss the entire season.

"I was ready to go, and they thought differently, so they sent me here," said Johnson, the son of Angel hitting coach Deron Johnson.

Johnson credits Dan Cassidy, a physical therapist in San Diego, for his early return and Dean Treanor, Reno's pitching coach, for altering his mechanics and helping him work his way back into the Giants' plans.

Splitting time between starts and the bullpen, Johnson is 3-5 with two saves and leads the team with a 3.33 earned run average.

At 27, third baseman Tommy Mitchell, who wears No. 7 and is built like brother Kevin of the Giants, has resurrected his career in Reno after playing for a San Diego-based semipro team on the weekends.

Mitchell, who went to Lincoln High, leads the team in on-base percentage (.382) and is second in home runs (eight), runs batted in (57) and slugging percentage (.417).

A month into the season, Kasey McKeon landed a coaching job with the Silver Sox. Former Padre Darrel Thomas had been fired recently as a Reno coach, and McKeon was out of work after being released as a catcher by Detroit last fall and Seattle this spring.

"It's turned out to be a nice situation," said McKeon, who attended Patrick Henry High and San Diego State and is the son of former Padre General Manager Jack McKeon. "I'm getting some great experience here that hopefully will turn into something bigger down the road.

"It was a tough transition, though, especially at the age (24) where there is still a desire to play, and you know that's not going to happen. It was also tough because we're an independent team, and most of the guys here are a couple years older than me."

Trivia: Johnson, eighth on the section's all-time basketball scoring list, played against two other current minor-league players in the 1984 3-A basketball championship game. Name them.

Four of a Kind: Former San Diego State infielder Nikco Riesgo, now playing outfield for the Philadelphia Phillies' double-A team in Reading, Pa., recently had his fifth four-hit game of the season. Riesgo hit nine home runs in July, the third highest in the minors for the month.

Trivia Answer: Randy Hennis and Eric Karros played for Patrick Henry, which lost to Johnson and Poway, 57-51.

After high school, Hennis and Karros both moved on to UCLA and now are in the triple-A Pacific Coast League. Hennis recently came off a two-month stint on the disabled list and is 4-0 with a 3.36 ERA for the Astros' team in Tucson. Karros is at .320 with 54 extra-base hits and 89 RBIs for the Dodgers' affiliate in Albuquerque.

Around the Minors: Benji Gil, the Texas Rangers' No. 1 pick in the June free agent draft out of Castle Park High, is hitting .323 with eight RBIs and five stolen bases in his first 16 games in rookie ball at Butte, Mont.

Cecil Espy, a No. 1 pick in the 1980 draft out of Point Loma High, was promoted to first-place Pittsburgh after hitting .310 for triple-A Buffalo.

Todd Pratt, a catcher from Chula Vista who was anticipating a promotion to Boston, is out for the year with a broken hand.

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