3/7/2014 7:51 P.M. ET
Urlacher suits up with Angels
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Former Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher put on a full Angels uniform, sat down for manager Mike Scioscia's pregame meeting, stretched with the team along the right-field line, shagged fly balls and then took part in some batting practice prior to Friday's game against the Cubs at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
His first impression: "Man, these guys are good."
"Especially Mike Trout," the potential Pro Football Hall of Famer said of the 22-year-old phenom. "He's the best player in baseball, in my opinion. He does everything. He hits, he runs, he steals -- does everything. To meet a young guy like that was cool for me.
"He's like a little brick. Athletically, I have no doubt he can play [football]. Athletically, he's got it all."
Trout was the one who was all psyched up to meet Urlacher, who spends the winter in nearby Chandler, has a history with athletic trainer Rick Smith, works out at the same facility as second baseman Howie Kendrick and also knows reliever Kevin Jepsen.
Trout was certain that the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Urlacher would crank one out in batting practice, but he hasn't played baseball since he was about 13 years old, and he hardly came close.
"I hit the ball more than I missed, which was good," said Urlacher, who now serves as an analyst for FOX Sports 1. "I wanted to take one out, but I think I got to the warning track one time. It's amazing how much those bats vibrate -- I guess if you're hitting the ball on the wrong spot of the bat, it's going to happen. But it was awesome, man. It was so cool to be out there."
Hamilton open to talking with Singleton
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton wasn't really familiar with Jonathan Singleton's situation when approached about it at camp recently, but he's there to help if needed.
Since recovering from a harrowing five-year addiction to drugs and alcohol that kept him out of the game for three full seasons, Hamilton has been open about telling his story as a means to inspire those battling the same demons that kept him down for so long.
"I look at it as a privilege," said Hamilton, who bounced back well enough to start five straight All-Star Games, win the 2010 American League Most Valuable Player Award and land a $125 million contract with the Angels.
Singleton, a 22-year-old first-base prospect for Houston who was handed a 50-game suspension for a second failed drug test last year, told The Associated Press on Monday that he used to be an addict -- battling, specifically, issues with marijuana and alcohol.
The No. 1 first-base prospect in baseball as ranked by MLB.com, Singleton admitted to using marijuana since he was 14 years old but says he hasn't smoked any in about a year and only has the occasional drink these days.
"There are times in my mind where I think about certain scenarios and if I were to go back and do the things I was doing," Singleton told reporters recently, "but I think about the consequences I had to deal with after the fact, and that's always a deterrent for me not to go back to that lifestyle."
Hamilton usually waits until he's contacted to get involved in somebody's life, but he'd be happy to reach out if Singleton or the Astros ask him to.
"I'd love to," he said, "but I don't get in people's business on those things unless it's prompted."
A few years ago, Hamilton reached out to former Marlins pitcher Jeff Allison, a highly touted prospect whose career spiraled because of an addiction to heroin and OxyContin. He wants to be a voice for others because he knows how hard it is to recover from addiction without one.
"I didn't know of or hear of anybody besides [Darryl] Strawberry, and I don't think he was in a position yet to really do anything at that time," Hamilton said. "I get it, you know. It's easy for me to relate. And obviously, they don't have anybody who can relate to them. If anybody can, I can."
De La Rosa diagnosed with forearm strain
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Dane De La Rosa's forearm injury, which caused a rough outing against the Dodgers on Thursday and prompted him to leave the game early, was diagnosed as a sprain, an MRI confirmed, and the power reliever doesn't believe he'll start the season on the disabled list.
"I doubt it," a relieved De La Rosa said on Friday morning while hooked up to an electronic muscle massager. "I should be fine. I'm not sure about the timeline, I can't really say, but it won't be too long."
Starting the sixth inning from Tempe Diablo Stadium, De La Rosa -- the journeyman 31-year-old coming off a breakout season in 2013 -- allowed five of the seven batters he faced to reach and served up a grand slam to Scott Van Slyke. With two outs in the inning, he was removed from the game.
"I just didn't feel the ball," he said. "There were a few times when I just had no idea where it was going. I just couldn't feel my fingertips. If you can't feel your fingertips when you're pitching, it's not a good thing."
De La Rosa said that he and the Angels will "attack [rehab] pretty aggressively," but he doesn't have a gauge on a timeline because he hasn't visited with the team's medical staff yet. Manager Mike Scioscia said that a return by Opening Day, on March 31, is "still realistic because he's a bullpen guy, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it."
De La Rosa earned the nickname "Everyday Dane" last season for the frequency of his use. He pitched in 75 games, fifth-most in the American League, while posting a 2.86 ERA and emerging as the team's setup man down the stretch.
Asked if all those appearances have caught up with De La Rosa, Scioscia said, "I mean, his bullpens have been great. He didn't show any signs of anything last year. But I don't know if you ever really know."
Wilson among the many indebted to Jobe
TEMPE, Ariz. - C.J. Wilson was 22 years old and winding down a rough season at Frisco, Texas, home of the Rangers' Double-A affiliate, when gradual wear and tear in his left forearm prompted him to undergo Tommy John surgery, an operation performed by the late Dr. Lewis Yocum, the Angels' longtime team orthopedist.
After a full year of rehab, Wilson couldn't believe how the ball felt coming out of his hand.
"I was like, 'I'm a power pitcher all of a sudden,'" Wilson recalled. "Later that year I hit 95 [mph] for the first time. I had never hit 95 in my life. I was like, 'Well, I guess the surgery thing really worked out well.'"
Wilson is one of countless pitchers whose careers were extended -- and, in many cases, heightened -- by the revolutionary procedure that Dr. Frank Jobe invented 40 years ago.
"The pitcher's elbow is like Humpty Dumpty," Wilson said, "and he figured out how to put it back together again."
Hearing about Jobe's death on Thursday at the age 88, and recalling the passing of Yocum in May 2013, made Wilson "think about the billions of dollars in salary and all the wins and the saves from guys like Mariano Rivera, John Smoltz, all these guys that were Tommy John survivors. It's the single most important medical procedure in the history of baseball."
In 1974, Jobe transplanted a tendon to replace the torn ulnar collateral ligament of Dodgers lefty Tommy John, setting him up for a 14-year comeback that prompted the naming of the procedure after him.
Jobe originally told John there was only a 5 percent chance of success. Now, 95 percent of patients who undergo the procedure return either as good or better than before.
Wilson believes that Jobe and Yocum should be in the Hall of Fame.
"Tommy John surgery is the No. 1 career extender; there is nothing around it," he said. "Dr. Jobe is a pioneer. I wouldn't want to go anywhere else but [to] the people who have studied under him or under Lew. They are the best surgeons in the world."
Trout still sorting through play at the plate
TEMPE, Ariz. -- On Friday, one day after a controversial play at home plate -- where expanded replay and baseball's new rule governing collisions converged -- center fielder Mike Trout still couldn't figure it all out.
In the first inning of Thursday's game, Trout almost had an inside-the-park home run, but home-plate umpire Rob Drake ruled that the tag from Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis beat him.
Manager Mike Scioscia argued that Ellis had violated Rule 7.13 by getting in the runner's path without having the ball. Scioscia didn't have to burn a challenge because umpires can review the new rule at their own discretion, but they were also able to see if Trout was safe or out -- and the call was upheld.
Trout was wondering if it's OK for the catcher to block the runner's path if he doesn't yet have the ball but is attempting to field the throw, which he feels Ellis did to catch Hanley Ramirez's relay.
"If he's standing there giving me a lane, and the ball's coming, what if he tries to catch it and blocks the lane?" Trout said. "Honestly, I don't know the rules right now. I'm told to go in sliding. But then I've heard that if he's in the way, I can run into him, but I can't run into him by leading with the shoulder."
The Angels are expected to meet with Major League Baseball within the next week or so to sort through that play and other elements of the two new rules.
Trout is among many players, coaches and umpires who are still unclear.
"I've got to do my homework," he said. "I don't know."
• Catcher John Hester's left wrist was feeling a lot better on Friday morning, a day after he took a fastball there and exited the game. He didn't undergo any X-rays and played in the split-squad game against the Rockies.
• After one of his players hit an infield popup that bounced just inside the first-base line and darted foul, Scioscia argued that the ball made contact with a Cubs player first but learned you can't challenge fair-foul for infield popups.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.