Angels GM: Locker to play baseball this summer

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Since the Los Angeles Angels drafted University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker in the 10th round of the draft last summer, the assumption has been that the Angels were merely taking a gamble on the talented athlete in case a career in the NFL didn’t pan out.

Locker was seen as a potential first round NFL draft pick this year had he not decided to return for his senior season. He’ll be a Heisman candidate in 2010, and if he continues on his current trend, some project he’ll be the top overall pick in the 2011 draft.

But now it appears the Angels didn’t just pay Locker $300,000 to hold his rights for six years. Locker has already made a low-key appearance at spring training, and now GM Tony Reagins tells the Orange County Register that the quarterback will actually play for an Angels minor league team this season.

“What we’ve tried to do is communicate a schedule that works for both him and the club and there’s certain points that he has to meet,” Reagins said. “He fulfilled his first obligation so far and our expectation is that he will continue to meet them.”

Reagins was vague about the quarterback’s obligations, but Locker, an outfielder who was the Washington State baseball player of the year in 2006, is seen as a strong prospect if he were to dedicate himself to the sport. He played 10 games for a college wood-bat team two summers ago, hitting .273 with a home run.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times writes that Locker’s baseball outing in 2010 will probably be brief like it was in 2008, as Locker has always said he would not let baseball interfere with his football preparations.

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Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.