Leo Rosales aims for San Diego

The steady progression has continued for right-hander Leo Rosales since being selected in the 20th-round of the 2003 MLB Draft. And the highlight hit this off-season when he was named to the San Diego Padres 40-man roster. Now, he is out to prove he belongs.

Leo Rosales came into the 2007 season with a 2.47 ERA over his four minor league seasons, notching 56 saves and striking out 262 over 233.2 innings. He twice led his respective league in saves and is known for his filthy changeup and ability to spot his fastball.

On November 20, 2006, the dream became a reality. Part of the process in making the big league club is having your name added to the 40-man roster.

Essentially, that seemingly small token means the Padres can call up Leo Rosales whenever they want without taking someone off the current 40-man roster, thus exposing them to waiver claims.

If he pitches well it also infers that he could be a quick call up to the Padres if the team is beset by injuries or ineffectiveness.

It is a happy day.

"It is amazing," Rosales said. "It is a dream come true – all the work, putting your nose to the grindstone finally pays off. It is an awesome feeling. I am grateful and my family is pumped up. We are going to keep striving to get to the top."

As expected, the daze Rosales found himself in lasted a few days.

"It didn't kick in at first," he admitted. "It took a couple of days. I talked to Grady Fuson at first. He said I was going to be added to the 40-man. It didn't kick in until about the third day and was official. It was an awesome feeling."

Along with the addition to the 40-man roster, Rosales was extended an invite to big league camp. Spring Training with the big boys.

Considering his plus changeup – a pitch that Portland coach Gary Lance says rivals the one of Padres closer Trevor Hoffman, Rosales was a natural fit.

Being 25 and in your first big league camp, however, can quickly humble the heartiest of prospects – especially when future Hall of Famers are toeing the rubber.

What do you do when Greg Maddux, David Wells and Hoffman walk in the room?

"I was just in awe," said Rosales. "Trevor was just a couple of lockers down from mine and Boomer and Greg Maddux in the corner. Mingling with these guys I can see that they are just ordinary people that go about their work, go about their business and get their stuff done. It was an awesome time up there."

There was something he noticed quickly when he sat in the dugout to watch them pitch or stood close by to see a bullpen session.

Ironically, it is an issue he is combating – his propensity for slow starts.

"What I did notice right off the bat was these guys are pitching down in the zone and hitting their spots," Rosales noted. "You can tell when you are struggling, especially first year guys, are up in the zone. Hoffman and Maddux are at the knees the first couple of days and that is what I got out of it."

Over his last three seasons, Rosales has been notoriously slow out of the gate. Three seasons ago, he did not make it out of extended spring training. The past two seasons have seen him struggle in April and May before finding his footing and often dominating down the stretch.

It is safe to say it is a major focus for him this season – one in which the Padres put their faith in his abilities. He plans on proving their decision was a wise one – all year long. While he may not get a call if injuries occur, he plans on being a sure call when rosters expand in September. From there, Rosales one level a year will put him in San Diego next April – for good.

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