Tag:Aroldis Chapman
Posted on: August 20, 2010 3:53 pm
Edited on: August 20, 2010 3:57 pm
 

Short Hops: QB Locker bypasses Angels this summer

Short hops, quick pops and backhand stops:

 In a summer during which former two-sport star Bo Jackson's signature home run was celebrated when the All-Star Game was played in Anaheim, the Angels' chances for reaping the benefits from another two-sport star have diminished.

Jake Locker, University of Washington quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate this fall, neglected to play baseball this summer as scheduled for one of the Angels' rookie league teams, throwing his baseball future in doubt.

Not that the Angels were banking on him -- they essentially took a flier on his athletic ability, selecting him in the 10th round of last summer's draft and signing him for $250,000.

"We haven't seen him on the baseball field, but I've got nothing but great things to say about him and his family," Eddie Bane, the Angels' director of scouting, says. "He's as talented an athlete as I've seen."

Bane compares Locker's athletic gifts to those of Mike Trout, the 18-year-old outfielder who starred at the Futures Game during All-Star weekend and was listed as the third-best prospect in the Angels' farm system by Baseball America entering 2010.

"Jake never played much baseball, but he's just so loaded with tools that you just dream," Bane says.

Locker hasn’t played baseball since the spring of 2006 at Ferndale (Wash.) High School, other than a brief appearance in 2008 for the Bellingham Bells of the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League. In 10 games there, he hit .273 with one homer while playing center field.

The Angels knew his baseball abilities were crude when they signed him last Aug. 15, and they knew there was a good chance he would wind up playing only football. But they liked his athleticism, liked the idea of positioning themselves as a landing spot if football didn't work out and, by signing him, could control his baseball rights for six years.

"It was a reach by me to see whether something happened [with football], whether he'd play baseball," Bane says. "But the guy is shaping up to be a No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the [NFL] draft if he stays healthy."

When the Angels picked Locker, he was coming off of a freshman season in which a broken thumb sidelined him for a significant time. But last year, Locker threw for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Locker spent a couple of days with the Angels during spring training this year, more of a get-acquainted session for both sides than anything else. There were a couple of reporting dates set this summer for Locker, who would have played for the Angels' short-season, rookie-level team in either Orem, Utah, or in Arizona.

Losing more baseball time this summer puts Locker even further behind, though it's pretty clear that another big year on the football field will end any notion of him playing baseball for good.

As for the money -- the Angels are paying his scholarship to Washington in addition to the $250,000 -- Angels general manager Tony Reagins declines to discuss specifics. The Angels could seek to recoup some of the money or simply retain his rights.

"He has an option to play football and an option to play baseball," Reagins says. "At some point in the next calendar year, we'll make a call or he'll make a call. The NFL draft is probably real important."

 Can a team be sparked by a brawl? The Reds are answering in the affirmative: They're 6-0 since getting swept by St. Louis in last week's emotional series and have opened up a 3 1/2-game lead in the NL Central. But a stern test is ahead: The Reds, 0-12 in Dodger Stadium since 2006, will spend the weekend there. Homer Bailey starts the opener Friday night against the Dodgers' Carlos Monasterios.

 Expect to see Aroldis Chapman working out of Cincinnati's bullpen, an inning or two at a clip, after rosters expand Sept. 1.

 Wrong place, wrong time: Boston is third in the AL East, but the Red Sox entering the weekend would be first in the AL West and second in the AL Central, just 1 1/2 games behind Minnesota.

 When Ryan Kalish slugged a grand slam this week against the Angels, he joined Daniel Nava as Red Sox rookies this year who have done it. Last time Boston had two rookies crack grand slams in the same season? John Valentin and Bob Zupcic in 1992. Kalish also became the second-youngest major leaguer to belt a slam this season, after Florida's Mike Stanton.

 One scout's reaction to watching a Kirk Gibson-managed Arizona team: "I was there a couple of weeks ago and I saw Justin Upton for the first time hit behind a runner. That has to be Gibson."

 Lots of industry types think the Brewers already have decided to trade Prince Fielder this winter before the final season of his contract. And more than one scout has mentioned that Fielder's weight combined with his age (26) make a long-term deal a risky proposition. The thinking being, once a guy hits 30, his weight issues will only exacerbate. I'm sure Fielder's agent, Scott Boras, will have plenty of ammunition against that when Prince hits the free agent market two winters from now.

 How about the attendant in the Cubs players' parking lot giving Derrek Lee the business when Lee went to park Friday before his debut for the Braves? Guy told him he couldn't park there, it was only for Cubs players. After Lee was momentarily flustered, the attendant told him he was kidding. What a weird debut, Lee for Atlanta in Wrigley Field. And class move by Cubs' starter Ryan Dempster to go stand behind the mound for several extra seconds before Lee's first at-bat in a Braves' uniform to give the Wrigley Field crowd a chance to cheer him -- and say farewell -- longer.

 Whaaaat, Zagat's 2010 survey ranks Five Guys Burger and Fries ahead of In-N-Out? Hey, I love both, but you've gotta go with In-N-Out, don’t you?

 

Posted on: March 22, 2010 7:31 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2010 8:57 pm
 

Reds hold breath with Chapman's stiff back

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A breezy and optimistic spring training for the Reds paused hard Monday when Cuban sensation Aroldis Chapman was removed from his Cactus League outing against Colorado early because of a stiff lower back.

Chapman, a favorite to win the Reds' fifth slot in the starting rotation, said his back has been bothering him much of the past week -- though later he amended that and indicated that the issue just came up. He also said he has never before had back problems.

"We don't think it's anything serious," Reds manager Dusty Baker said following the Reds' 9-1 loss to the Rockies. "We took him out before it got any worse."

The Reds issued a statement later Monday that Chapman left Monday's game because of back spasms. He will be treated and re-evaluated later this week.

Chapman, through translator Tony Fossas, the pitching coach at Class A Dayton, said he is "not really hurt" and described it as "a little problem with my back I've had all week."

As long as it is a "little" problem, the Reds will breathe easy. Chapman, in competition with Mike Leake, Travis Wood and Justin Lehr for the final rotation spot behind Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey, had allowed only one run in seven spring innings before Monday, striking out 10 and walking only two.

Coming in after Bronson Arroyo to start the sixth, Chapman mowed down Troy Tulowitzki (swinging strikeout), Miguel Olivo (pop to shortstop) and Melvin Mora (grounder to third) on just eight pitches -- six strikes.

But during a 31-pitch seventh, he suddenly changed gears and started throwing more sliders and change-ups than fastballs. And where his fastball ranged from 93 to 97 miles an hour in the sixth, it was mostly in the 91-93 m.p.h. range in the seventh. In his previous outing, he had touched 102.

"The warning signs were I didn't think he was attacking the hitters," said Reds pitching coach Bryan Price, who visited Chapman on the mound a couple of batters before he returned with Baker and Reds trainer Paul Lessard. "He was trying to get guys out with his change-up and slider.

"I wanted to remind him, 'You've got a good fastball. Use it.'"

Not long after that mound visit, Price and the Reds' staff noticed Chapman stretching on the mound. When Price, Baker and Lessard went to the mound at that point, Chapman at first wasn't too forthcoming.

"I guess guys in Cuba are taught not to say much or complain," Baker said of Chapman, who signed a six-year, $30.25 million contract with the Reds on Jan. 11. "He really didn't have the same stuff. He really didn't have the same fastball, anything. We went out, and it was hard to pull it out of him."

Chapman, who wound up allowing four unearned runs, two walks, a wild pitch, a single and a double in 1 2/3 innings, was to be further examined by doctors later Thursday -- again, more precautionary than anything, the Reds hope.

As for how it may affect the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation if Chapman has to be shut down for a few days, well, let's say that's not first on the list of things Baker would like to think about right now.

"I don't know, man," Baker said. "Let's not speculate until we find out [if he has to miss time]."

Sunblock Day? Lovely day in the 80s in Arizona. Dare we declare that the cold stuff is past us and it's baseball weather from here on out.

Likes: Joe Mauer in Minnesota, long-term. ... Albert Pujols in St. Louis short-term, for now, and long-term later (it's gotta come eventually, right?). ... Vin Scully back at work. And his tremendous description of doctor's orders for him reducing his activity: "I'm supposed to cut back on dangling participles and I'm not allowed to split an infinitive for at least another week, but otherwise, no." ... How's this for percentages: There were 13 people on the writers' side of the press box for the Reds-Rockies Cactus League game in Goodyear on Monday, and two of them are in the writers' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame: Hal McCoy, now blogging on the Reds for his old paper, the Dayton Daily News, and Tracy Ringolsby, who's got a regular gig on the Rockies' pre- and post-game telecasts for Fox Sports Rocky Mountain. ... Reds media relations director Rob Butcher, one of the very best in the business, training for the Boston Marathon on April 19. ... Fine, fine production of The Beauty and the Beast at Calavera Hills Middle School over the weekend in Carlsbad, Calif. The kids weren't simply acting, they became the characters. The sets were terrific. The sound was exceptionally clean. The production was top-shelf. The costumes were Academy Award-caliber. Phenomenal enough that I'm going to have to get to know some of these folks. Oh wait ... was the costume director really my wife? And one of the crack backstage crew members really my daughter? Man, I need to get home more. ... Jimmy Buffett and the Zac Brown Band on Crossroads, currently running on CMT. Fabulous pairing.

Dislikes: The guy in front of me in the airport security line Monday morning who was so clueless that, as he was removing the change out of his pockets, his belt and other metal objects actually had to remove suspenders from underneath his shirt as well. He had absolutely no idea. Airport security basically had to guide him through everything as he held up the line for at least five minutes. It was Airport Security for Dummies, to be sure. ... Sure do hate to see Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas sidelined the rest of the way.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"When I left I wasn't thinking
"That I wasn't coming home
"But first Al Green
"And then Barry White
"Convinced me not to go
"And I didn't come home for fighting
"I came to bandage up my hand
"And if you're gonna talk to me like that
"Then I'll just go back out again
"Wipe that chip right off your shoulder
"We ain't getting any younger
"Some things are getting bigger
"Some things are falling off
"Some things they seem much harder
"Some other things stay soft"

-- The Hold Steady, Cheyenne Sunrise

Posted on: March 13, 2010 1:16 am
Edited on: March 13, 2010 1:20 am
 

Walking and patience with Adrian Gonzalez

PEORIA, Ariz. -- You've gotta have a whole lot of patience not to go crazy when the trade rumors have you surrounded.

But then, we already knew Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez has patience.

Quick, name the hitter who led the National League in walks last year. Hint: It ain't Albert Pujols.

"I walked all year, but mainly because pitchers were walking me as opposed to pitch selection," says Gonzalez, who wants to establish an even better eye this summer. "It's something you can work on. The more pitches you see, the better."

Gonzalez walked 119 times last season, including a crazy 24 times over an 11-game span immediately after the Padres shipped Scott Hairston, Gonzalez's main protector in the lineup, to Oakland.

It was right around then that the slugging first baseman (40 homers, 99 RBIs) lost a little of his patience and began taking a whack here and there at pitches he couldn't reach very well.

He still had a sensational season -- All-Star, Gold Glove, career-high .407 on-base percentage -- but his midseason funk still bothers him. Surrounded by upheaval in the organization at midseason, Gonzalez knocked in only eight runs and hit just .235 during the month of June, then batted just .198 during the month of July.

Gonzalez says this "personal funk" helped reiterate to him that he must take his walks.

"[Patience] is one of the parts of the game you have to learn," he says. "Sometimes the best thing you can do for the team is to take the walk rather than expand your strike zone."

The great ones have done it. Barry Bonds. Pujols. Alex Rodriguez.

Gonzalez, already a superstar, is looking to get better.

Sunblock Day? Ah, maybe it's time to open that bottle of SPF. Predicted highs in the 70s all weekend in Phoenix.

Likes: Former Padres general manager Kevin Towers to the Yankees as an assistant to New York GM Brian Cashman. But the best part is, after the Padres tried to extract $250,000 from the Yanks while attempting to recoup some of the fired Towers' 2010 salary, the Yankees stiff-armed them and the Padres settled for only $50,000 in compensation, according to a source. ... Can't wait to see Reds' lefty Aroldis Chapman sometime in the next few days. He may be the most exciting thing to hit Cincinnati since Skyline Chili. ... It is amazing how much Tony Gwynn Jr. sounds like his Hall of Fame father. If you haven't heard him speak yet, check out our video interview. ... Did you see Evan Turner's game-winning 37-foot buzzer beater as Ohio State avoided getting upset by Michigan on Friday? Unbelievable. Let the March Madness begin. ... And on a smaller madness note, a huge congratulations to the Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central Falcons, who stunned 20-2 Dundee for a Class C District title Friday in the boys' high school basketball tournament. Great win for first-year coach Randy Windham, who replaced the legendary Ray Lauwers this year. ... Pretty good sour cream chicken enchiladas the other night at Los Olivos in Scottsdale. But alas, no spotting this year of actor Timothy Busfield. ... First John Hiatt (Thursday) then the Drive-By Truckers (Friday) on the Late Show with David Letterman. The man is on a roll.

Dislikes: Nomar Garciaparra's tenure in Boston ended unceremoniously with a trade, and after he bounces around the game like a foul ball for several years, he and the Red Sox get together so he can "sign" a minor-league contract and "retire" as a Red Sock? And he hated dealing with the media, and now he's headed to become a talking head on ESPN? Look, I have no personal ax to grind here -- I've always gotten along just fine with Nomar -- but count me out of this entire dog and pony show. The Red Sox, of all organizations, should be above a publicity stunt like this. And Nomar on television after avoiding the media as often as possible? Whatever.


Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"There ought to be a law with no bail
"Smash a guitar and you go to jail
"With no chance for early parole
"You don't get out until you get some soul"

-- John Hiatt, Perfectly Good Guitar

 

 
 
 
 
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