Confidence keeps Mark Trumbo on the upswing
For losing his starting job, enduring eight of 23 April games on the bench and playing only his second full season in the big leagues, Mark Trumbo has proved resilient.
The Angels' 26-year-old outfielder from Villa Park is batting .322, ranked seventh in the American League with 15 home runs and tied for eighth with 41 runs batted in before Sunday's game.
After working through spring training to learn third base following the addition of Albert Pujols, Trumbo struggled under the April lights and was benched in a jammed batting order, inspiring cries of, "Why take Mark McGwire out of the lineup?" as the team started 6-14.
Since May 1, however, the Angels are 27-15 as Trumbo has been kept out of only one game, batting .327 (53 for 162) with nine home runs in his most recent 19 games.
You've been the epitome of what baseball demands — a short memory and focus on the task at hand. How did you accomplish that?
"If you play long enough, you realize every game is not life and death, and you realize the importance of a short memory. I think I've built up a decent perspective about the importance to reset and do whatever you have to do that given day to get back into your groove. I play little tricks on myself, like imagining the stats are getting wiped clean, or that the next game is the first game of the season. The more you dwell on your batting average, that sets you up for failure and creates undue pressure."
In spring training, things appeared to be going well for you at third base. Do you recall a play or moment when self-doubt crept in for you playing there?
"Self-doubt is natural. You can't completely wipe it out. There's always anxiety, but never to a point to where I felt I couldn't, or can't, get a job done over there. Because of injuries, other positions opening, I've been moved and that's more positive for the team. I still think I can play third, and that I'm better because of this."
What happened to you at third base … do you describe that as a failing, or something else?
"An experience, and an ongoing one. Obviously, no one wants to make errors, but in the grand scheme, I was trying to learn a position. Being the way I am, I expect to make all the plays, but realistically, if you don't have enough reps, you've got to just do the best you can and trust your reactions. And sometimes, they're not right."
A player like you I'm sure was taught to not question the manager, but when your bat was pulled from the lineup, knowing you were capable of what you've done, how did you resolve that?
"I knew going in there was a chance I wouldn't be in there every day, so when you have knowledge of the situation up front … I wasn't caught off guard. I know I'm better with everyday reps, but there was an overload of talent here. I knew I'd find a way in there, but a lot of guys in this room have had to make adjustments. They all want at-bats, but sometimes, what's best for the team and what's best for the player don't always align."
Who deserves the most credit for keeping you locked in at the plate despite the inconsistent early schedule? And describe how you came to terms with the idea of playing anywhere on any given day.
"The coaches, but, ultimately, you've got to have faith in yourself. You need to know you can hit and make the adjustments when necessary. There's always going to be an 0 for 10 or 1 for 20 to deal with. You just have to know there's going to be more better days ahead. Last week, I had four strikeouts in a game but came back and hit two homers the next day. You just never know day to day what's in store, so why bring a bad attitude from the day before? I'll find out where I'm playing that day, and I know I'm fortunate to be in there. Any day, I could be in left, right, first base or designated hitter. I try and compartmentalize it a little bit."
What clicked for you at the plate? Are you thinking about being an All-Star?
"Better decisions about what to swing at, not missing pitches. As for All-Stars, I don't expect anything and don't think about it. It'd be awesome, but with everything else going on, I have no time to devote to that."
Have you reflected at all about these last few months, how if you can make it through this you can make it through anything?
"Who knows how things will finish out, but I'm proud of the way I handled these things and bringing a pretty positive attitude to the table. I hope that's been able to help if others were watching. The biggest thing is we're playing better baseball."