Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — That segment of the Angels fan base that knows all the top prospects and places extreme value on potential will be disappointed if Mike Trout does not start the season in the Angels’ outfield.
Trout, 20, rated one of baseball’s top three prospects, will not.
“If they put me in [triple-A] Salt Lake or wherever, I’m going to accept that,” Trout said. “I wouldn’t be disappointed at all. I’m still young. It just makes you want to work harder.”
As skilled as the speedy Trout is, and as solid as he looked in his second big-league stint last season, and as much as left fielder Vernon Wells struggled, the numbers still don’t favor Trout this spring.
Wells has three years and $63 million left on his contract and Manager Mike Scioscia and General Manager Jerry Dipoto have both said he will start in left field despite a 2011 season in which he hit .218 with 66 runs batted in.
Peter Bourjos has earned the center-field job, veteran Torii Hunter is entrenched in right, and Bobby Abreu and possibly Mark Trumbo will be vying for playing time at the corneroutfield spots. Even if Trout has a torrid spring, it will take an injury for him to win a job.
“You never know where you are at the end of spring training — somebody could be banged up, and an opportunity presents itself,” Scioscia said. “Mike is certainly on the depth chart.… We’re excited about his potential. He’s advanced for his age, but he’s not the finished product.”
Trout jumped from double-A to the Angels as a 19-year-old last July 8, and the prevailing opinion is that he would benefit from more seasoning.
Trout hit .163 in 14 games, with one homer and six runs batted in, before being sent back to double-A on July 31. He returned to the big leagues in mid-August and hit .250 with four homers and 10 RBIs in his final 26 games.
“You cannot sit a guy like that,” Hunter said. “You have to play talent. He has to play every day to work on his game, get more at-bats, build up his confidence. The guy has a lot of talent. Don’t rush him, because if you rush him and he gets swallowed, you ruin him for a long time.”
The Angels have no plans to ban alcohol from their clubhouse and on team flights, but they limit consumption to beer; hard liquor is not allowed.
Teams have examined alcohol policies after reports last fall that Boston pitchers drank beer and ate in the clubhouse during games while the team was plummeting to an unprecedented September collapse.
New Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine, who succeeded Terry Francona, recently banned alcohol from the clubhouse. The Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs have banned booze for years.
“We’ve never really had an issue,” Scioscia said. “We haven’t experienced things here that would significantly alter our policy.”
Veteran pitcher Dan Haren said some players like to have a beer or two with postgame meals, “but you always have to be responsible,” he said.
“Nothing like that has happened here,” Haren added, alluding to the Red Sox. “Not that Francona runs an easy clubhouse, but Scioscia is really strict. I would be scared to do something like that.”
The Angels will hold an intrasquad game in Tempe Diablo Stadium on Saturday. They open the exhibition season Monday against Oakland in Phoenix.