It had been 10 months — 306 days, to be exact — since Mike Trout played in a competitive baseball game, so long that the team the Angels center fielder suffered a season-ending injury against in 2021 is no longer in existence.
Trout was running from second to third in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians on a flyball by Jared Walsh into flat left field on May 17 when he felt a pop in his lower leg and suffered a strain in his right calf.
The American League’s three-times most valuable player hobbled to the third shelter at Angel Stadium and never played again, a setback in late July that left him sidelined for the remainder of the season.
The Indians never returned. They changed their name to Guardians over the winter. Trout did, and he showed a huge crowd Saturday at Tempe Diablo Stadium what the Angels were missing by hitting twice sharply into left midfield in two at-bats in a 12-5 Cactus League win over the Arizona Diamondbacks .
“It’s been a long time,” Trout said after leaving a game in which the Angels scored 19 including homers from Taylor Ward, Max Stassi, Jack Mayfield and Jose Rojas. “I’m just happy to be out there and healthy.
“I was a bit nervous before the game, but it felt really good. Two bats, saw some pitches. … It’s just fun to go out and be with the guys.”
Trout scored behind Shohei Ohtani, an alignment manager, on the third Saturday, Joe Maddon said he would likely use him in the regular season, with Anthony Rendon cleaning up. He could also beat Ohtani Leadoff and Trout for second.
“It’s possible,” Maddon said of Ohtani and Trout finishing second and third, respectively. “Shohei could also reach number 1. As long as Anthony is here, things will be different. I haven’t decided on that yet.”
Trout finished second in 665 career starts and third in 420 starts. He finished second in his first 35 starts last season before Maddon traded him and Ohtani, the two-way star who hit 46 homers and 100 RBIs, for the May 17 game.
“Yeah, I like it,” Trout said of hitting behind Ohtani. “He’s on base a lot. He does, however, hit home runs. The meat of the lineup, it’s going to be pretty good.”
Justin Upton, possibly. The veteran left fielder, whose playing time could be shortened by young outfielders Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh, is training at first base this spring, hoping to give Maddon another right-handed batting option if he wants to put Walsh up against a hard left -dealer.
Walsh was a 2021 All-Star, batting .277 with a .850 on-base percentage, 29 homers and 98 RBIs, but he hit .170 with .565 OPS in 192 plate appearances against lefties.
“There might be some possibilities there,” Maddon said of Upton. “There are different ways to get your racquet in the lineup. He started out as a shortstop years ago so he doesn’t mind being on the dirt at all.”
Upton, 34, was limited by back injuries to 89 games in 2021, a season in which he hit .211 with .705 OPS, 17 home runs and 41 RBIs. In the final year of a five-year deal that will net him $28 million this season, Upton is more concerned about his health than his position.
A toe injury limited him to 63 games in 2019. He struggled with 1.093 OPS to .339 last June before being placed on the injury list on June 23. In late July, he worsened the injury, hitting .126 with .442 OPS, three homers and nine RBIs in 26 games over the past three months.
“If I can stay on the field, I will produce,” said Upton, who was hit by a throw on Saturday. “That’s the name of the game. Health is wealth.”
Big in Japan
Trout got a kick out of a video clip of new Chicago Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki, when asked during his introductory press conference why he picked No. 27, said, “Mike Trout…I love you.”
Trout spoke to Ohtani about Suzuki on Saturday morning.
“That was great, pretty cool,” Trout said. “When I got that alert on my phone, I thought … I’m just excited to meet him.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/angels/story/2022-03-19/mike-trout-plays-first-game-since-may-angels-win-spring-exhibition Mike Trout is playing the first game since May when the Angels win the exhibition