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Get Ready for Konerkomania

September 02, 1997|STEVE SPRINGER

For most fans, the legend of Fernando Valenzuela began in 1981, when the rookie left-hander exploded on the L.A. sports scene.

Few remember that the phenomenon really began at the end of the 1980 season when Valenzuela, called up from the Dodgers' San Antonio farm team, gave the fans a sneak preview of Fernandomania.

Valenzuela kind of sneaked up on the opposition as well, going 2-0 in a 10-game, late-season debut, giving up no earned runs in 17 2/3 innings with 16 strikeouts and only five walks.

There will be no such surprises from Paul Konerko, however. People look at his numbers at triple-A Albuquerque--a .322 batting average, 37 home runs and 127 RBIs in 128 games--and expect big things from the third baseman-first baseman, who will be one of seven or eight players called up to the Dodgers in September.

"He's a good hitter," Manager Bill Russell said. "But if he's a major league prospect, he should be putting those numbers up."

No matter what numbers Konerko puts up, the Dodgers must find a place for him if they decide to keep him with the big club next season.

First base belongs to Eric Karros, who isn't planning on leaving any time soon. And at third is Todd Zeile, who also figures to stick around.

"Konerko has the talent to be a third baseman," Russell said. "He just needs time to learn. But where do you get him the time?"

Said Executive Vice President Fred Claire, "A lot of people put up numbers at Albuquerque. He still has to win a job. That's what he has to do. By the end of [next] spring training, we'll know how he fits in."

For now, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Konerko will be used as a pinch-hitter, and may give Karros a few innings off at first base in one-sided games.


Among those also expected to be called up are some familiar names--veteran Eddie Murray, second baseman Wilton Guerrero, pitcher Dennis Reyes and outfielder Wayne Kirby.


* Opponent--Texas Rangers, two games.

* Site--The Ballpark, Arlington, Texas.

* Tonight--5:30 PDT.

* TV--KTLA (Channel 5).

* Radio--KABC (790), KWKW (1330).

* Records--Dodgers 78-60, Texas 64-73.

* Record vs. Rangers--1-1.

DODGERS' HIDEO NOMO (13-10, 4.02 ERA) vs. RANGERS' DARREN OLIVER (11-10, 4.05 ERA)

* Update--Korean fans of Chan Ho Park all over this country are having a hard time trying to figure out the Dodgers' pitching plans, and thus, their own ticket-buying plans. At first, the fans were under the impression that Park was going to pitch last Sunday at Dodger Stadium against the Seattle Mariners. But they didn't take into account the temporary presence of Dennis Reyes in the rotation because of two doubleheaders in five days. That moved Park to tonight. But the Dodgers, wanting to rest Park, are saving him till next Saturday. With Monday's day off, Nomo will still be pitching with his normal four days' rest.

Wednesday, 5:30 p.m.--Ismael Valdes (9-10, 2.67) vs. Bobby Witt (11-9, 4.43)

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