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?