PHOENIX -- They're making the prospects younger than ever.
Consider this: Had the Angels not promoted Mike Trout, 19, on Friday, the U.S. team in the Futures game here Sunday probably would have had one, two and three hitters aged 19 (Trout), 19 (Baltimore shortstop prospect Manny Machado) and 18 (Bryce Harper, the top overall pick in the 2010 draft by Washington).
As it was, with Trout a late scratch because of his sudden promotion from Double-A Arkansas, Machado batted second and Harper third.
Of anybody in the game, of course, Harper was the focal point. The No. 1 overall pick, a five-tool phenom, a controversial brat, the game's next great player ... Harper is many things to many people.
"I try and go out and play the game, I try to have fun," Harper said. "If it's not fun, you shouldn't be out there."
Some would say blowing a kiss at a pitcher after drilling a home run, as he did earlier this summer while playing for Class A Hagerstown, might be having a bit too much fun.
Machado, his friend since the two played together on an 18-and-under U.S. team in Venezuela two winters ago, says that's "the only thing I give him [grief] about, for blowing that kiss. It was pretty awesome."
Awesome, funny, whatever from a young player's perspective.
But Machado said he sure would never do something like that himself.
"This game is rough, and I play shortstop," Machado said. "Somebody would take me out."
On a serious note regarding Harper, Machado said, "He's a great player. He's got the tools. He was obviously producing at Hagerstown. To me, he has the tools to be up there [in the majors] right now. It depends on how he does ... he could easily be up there this year."
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo pretty much has put the kibosh on the idea that Harper could land in the bigs yet this summer. And 2012 is not guaranteed, though odds would suggest that if Harper continues to produce, it's certainly not out of the question.
The Nationals promoted Harper to Double-A Harrisburg on the Fourth of July after he hit .318 with a .423 on-base percentage, 14 homers, 46 RBIs and 19 steals in 72 games. Even though the Angels called up Trout on Friday, Harper said he isn't drawing a direct line from Trout and the Angels to his own situation.
As for whether he thinks his success may accelerate his own timetable, Harper shrugged.
"I have no clue," he said. "I'll let 'em make that decision. Mike Rizzo has done a great job with everything. I'm going to play this year like I know how to play and let them make the decision."
Machado said he and Harper still talk an average of once a week since their time together in Venezuela, when they were kids far from home talking about stuff teenagers talk about.
"Girlfriends back home, what was going on when we were in Venezuela when we were in the middle of nowhere," Machado said.
While Machado was happy to be reunited with Harper for a day, he was disappointed not to see Trout -- but very happy for Trout.
"I was excited for him -- when the GM calls, that's the best call you could ever get in your life," Machado said.
Considered the best shortstop prospect in the minor leagues, Machado, like Harper, should have one of those phone calls in his near future as well.
Likes: Fun seeing all of the baseball people gathered in one location. Very impressed with the way Orioles prospect Manny Machado carries himself. ... Hall of Famer Pat Gillick, the former general manager and current special assistant to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, intently watching batting practice and infield at the Futures Game. Even into his 70s, his mind is still incredible. Looking forward to seeing him inducted into the Hall along with Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar in a couple of weeks. ... Very cool lightening storm Sunday night in the desert. No rain, but the sky was lit up for a couple of hours. ... The sour cream enchiladas and frozen strawberry margaritas at Los Olivos Mexican restaurant in Scottsdale. ... The Tee Pee Mexican joint in Phoenix, though we haven't been there yet.
Dislikes: Man, so many scratches from the All-Star Game. Sunday's Celebrity Softball Game was "celebrity" in name only -- it was a bunch of B-listers -- but that star power still might wind up being higher than Tuesday's game. ... OK, you wonder, who was in the Celebrity Softball Game? Among others, Chord Overstreet (Glee), James Denton (Desperate Housewives), Jennie Finch (former Arizona State softball pitcher and a gold-medal winner at the 2004 Olympics), Erin Andrews (ESPN), Kate Upton (Sports Illustrated swimsuit model), Nick Jonas (of the Jonas Brothers) and Larry Fitzgerald (receiver for the Arizona Cardinals).
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I rounded first, never thought of the worst
"As I studied the shortstop's position
"Crack went my leg, like the shell of an egg
"Someone call a decent physician
"I'm no Pete Rose, I can't pretend
"Though my mind is quite flexible, these brittle bones don't bend"
-- Jimmy Buffett, Growing Older (But Not Up)