They Discovered Gem in Dickson


Jason Dickson was the losing pitcher Sunday, for only the second time since April 30. While he was out there, though, even in defeat, it was apparent what has made this 24-year-old Angel pitcher not only a winner, but baseball’s most surprising find of the spring.

The kid has poise. You could see it every time Dickson had to face Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants, who has rattled many a pitcher. When he wasn’t working around Bonds, walking him intentionally, Dickson was able to make Bonds rap into a double play and look at a called third strike. For a rookie, he doesn’t rattle.

“The first man he ever faced in the majors hit a homer,” recalls Bill Bavasi, the Angels’ general manager.


“That right?” asks his manager, Terry Collins.

“Derek Jeter, last year,” Bavasi says. “And that was in Yankee Stadium, against the world champions. If that didn’t affect him, I don’t know what would.”

The manager, who is newer to Anaheim than this rookie right-hander is, nods at this tidbit from 1996, when he was busy managing in the other league. Collins went to camp without a clue what the Angels’ arms would be like. He knew they could hit. He had no way of knowing that Jason Royce Dickson--1-4 lifetime in The Show--would be among the American League’s top pitchers by June.

Upon taking the hill Sunday, up against National Leaguers for the first time, Dickson had more victories than Greg Maddux, more than John Smoltz, more than Hideo Nomo. There were only a handful of pitchers in all of baseball with more wins than Dickson, among them names like Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens. He was 8-2 and no longer, “Who?”

Even while the Giants were getting the better of him, 4-1, Dickson looked fine. He struck out a career-high eight. His stuff was sharp.

A home run by J.T. Snow was the first Dickson had surrendered in 30 innings.

“I felt pretty good,” Dickson said. “Everything was working, which is why it’s frustrating when you don’t get the results.”

Results are exactly what he has been getting.

Only mid-June, but already Dickson is the Big A’s ace.

He has more victories than Chuck Finley, Mark Langston, Mark Gubicza and Shigetoshi Hasegawa combined. They formed the rest of Collins’ rotation, as this season began. Imagine the odds against the Angels’ being 2 1/2 games out of first place--which they were going into Sunday’s game--with a cumulative record of 6-13 from those four pitchers.


Collins is seeking help. Even while running his own team, the Angel manager kept an eye on the progress of Kevin Gross, the recently signed veteran who made a start Sunday for the Vancouver Canadians of the Pacific Coast League. The report he got was good: Gross was extremely effective.

Might he be here soon?

“You bet he might be,” Collins acknowledged.

Until then, the Canadian who means the most to Anaheim’s organization is Dickson, who was born in the Ontario north of the border, not the one near Rancho Cucamonga.

Missing a shot at a Dodger Stadium start this week is meaningless to Dickson, who didn’t give a second thought to Chavez Ravine, growing up.

He says, “Frankly, I was looking forward just as much to pitching against the Giants, if not more. I’m from the East. I was more into the Red Sox, the Yankees and such.”

In a few weeks, Dickson might get a shot at playing ball with certain Red Sox and Yankees. He stands an excellent chance of being named to the American League’s pitching staff for the All-Star game, to be played July 8 at Cleveland.

No one will confuse him with a Rocket or a Big Unit--he doesn’t strike out many, as a rule--but if you see Dickson work behind Clemens and Johnson against the National League’s stars, don’t be shocked. The surprise of the spring won’t be a surprise by midsummer.


“He’s the real thing, far as I can tell,” says the Angels’ Collins, who is looking for four more.