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BASEBALL / JEFF FLETCHER : Rosselli’s Effort Fine for a Start

You might think Joe Rosselli, having grown up in Los Angeles during the pinnacle of Fernando-mania, would be somewhat in awe when he realized his opponent for his first major league start was none other than Fernando Valenzuela.

But not Rosselli.

“I was actually more of a Cardinals fan,” he said.

Rosselli has been a San Francisco Giants fan since that team drafted him out of Alemany High in 1990. And if he keeps pitching the way he did in beating Valenzuela and the Padres on Friday night in San Diego, Giant fans will become Joe Rosselli fans too.

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“Young Joe did a great job for us tonight,” Giant Manager Dusty Baker said after the 9-2 victory. “He threw strikes and mixed the ball up well. You wouldn’t have known that it was his first major league start against a high-powered team like the Padres.”

Rosselli, 23, gave up one run and four hits in 5 1/3 innings. It was Rosselli’s second major-league apperance. He allowed a run in 2 1/3 innings of relief last Sunday against the Florida Marlins in San Francisco.

“I was definitely nervous,” Rosselli said of his debut, “but after the first hitter I kind of said, ‘I have to calm down and get some hitters out.’ ”

Rosselli’s strong outing Friday might have helped him stick with the Giants beyond May 15, when rosters are reduced from 28 to the normal 25. Clubs were allowed three extra players for the first few weeks of the season because of the shortened spring training.

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“I have no idea (what will happen on the 15th),” Rosselli said. “I just play it day by and day and see what they want to do with me. If I go down, I had a great time up here.”

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Before Keith Smith, there was Nate Dishington.

Dishington was the tall, strong-armed Hoover High quarterback whose dream was a college football scholarship.

In the spring of his senior year in 1993, he finally signed with Fresno State. But because his baseball career blossomed at the same time, he wound up as a second-round pick and he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals for $200,000.

Smith, a Newbury Park High graduate, followed much the same path in the summer of 1994--although he was bombarded by college football offers. Smith eventually gave up baseball--and his $200,000 bonus--this spring because he decided football was his true love.

So what about Dishington? Does he miss football?

“All the time,” he said from his apartment in Savannah, Ga., where he’s playing Class-A ball. “Now that football season is over, it’s much easier, but when the game is on TV and you’re not out there, I’m thinking about it.

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“But I’m not really worried about it at this point, though.”

Dishington, 20, has other problems now, like his .158 batting average. Or moving from catcher to first base.

Dishington played first base at the start of his senior year at Hoover because he had bad knees, but when he moved to catcher in midseason, his draft stock rose dramatically.

The prospect of a catcher with a powerful left-handed swing excited scouts.

As a catcher, Dishington was a project, though. He was 6 feet 3, 210 pounds with a strong arm, but he lacked polish. He spent two summers in rookie leagues and two falls in instructional leagues, mostly learning how to play catcher.

Dishington doesn’t concede that he will never catch again, but he also said he wasn’t surprised he was moved.

“I kind of had a feeling they were going to do this,” Dishington said. “At first it was no big deal because I could play (first base) a lot better than I could catch. Rather than me having to go through a few yars of A ball and work on catching, now if I just hit the way I know I can, maybe I can move a little faster.”

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Just when Chris Fick finally figured out the California League, the season ended. Now Fick, who played at Newbury Park High and Cal Lutheran, is playing for St. Petersburg in the Class-A Florida State League and he has to start over.

After signing with the Cardinals as a non-drafted free agent, Fick, 25, began his career with a 1-for-33 streak for San Bernardino. But he ended that streak with a grand slam and he batted .280 with seven home runs in his final 111 at-bats.

Now at St. Petersburg, Fick is off to a .241 start, but his confidence is not shaken.

“There’s not a guy in this league that I can’t hit with,” Fick said, “and I’m not being cocky. The one thing that God blessed me with is I can hit. I’m not a fast runner and I don’t have the greatest arm, but I can swing the bat.”

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Short hops: The Houston Astros are trying Dave Landaker (Royal) in the outfield. Landaker, drafted in the second round as a shortstop in 1992, has played sparingly in the infield since signing because of a sore arm he developed shortly into his pro career.

This season at Class-A Kissimmee, Landaker has played almost exclusively in left field, with a few games in right or as the designated hitter. . . .

J.P. Roberge (St. Francis) has proved his hitting ability to the Dodgers since he was drafted last June, but he’s having trouble finding much time at first base this season at Class-A San Bernardino.

Roberge is hitting .308, tied for 10th in the California League, with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 23 games, but he has been spending a lot of time as the designated hitter because of his teammates.

The San Bernardino roster also includes Doug Newstrom, who was chosen by a poll of coaches and scouts as the best defensive first baseman in the Florida State League last year, and Jay Kirkpatrick, who was chosen for the same honor in the California League in 1993. . . .

Roger Salkeld (Saugus) was the last player cut from the Seattle Mariners’ major league roster this spring. He made his first start at triple-A Tacoma on Wednesday night and gave up three runs, two earned, in 2 2/3 innings. He did not earn a decision. . . .

Rich Aude (Chatsworth) had three hits, including two doubles, in his first eight at-bats with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. . . . Through Friday, Mike Lieberthal (Westlake) still had not recorded his first 1995 at-bat with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies are carrying three catchers--Lieberthal, Darren Daulton and Lenny Webster--but only Daulton has batted.


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