Trout's fast start has Angels playing name game

Trout's fast start has Angels playing name game

Published Jun. 8, 2012 12:48 p.m. ET

Mike Trout runs in fast company, and it's not only the 3.53 seconds he was timed in going from home to first on a bunt single last month.

Ask talent evaluators around the league and or his teammates in the Angels' locker room to talk about Trout and the name-dropping begins. References to other precocious talents such as Ken Griffey Jr., Robin Yount, Ivan and Alex Rodriguez are inevitable as are comparisons to all-time greats Rickey Henderson and Mickey Mantle.

"He's up there," veteran Torii Hunter said. "He reminds me more of Rickey Henderson -- power, plate discipline, speed, good defense. I can't put him with Griffey, because he was a totally different player. I can't put him with Pudge, because he was a catcher. But I can put him with Rickey."

Teammate Jerome Williams put it more succinctly.

"That kid, man, he's amazing," Williams said.

Hunter offered his own one-word description of Trout's arrival on the big-league scene this year after a 40-game test drive last summer, when Trout was only 19 years old.

"Electric," Hunter said.

The Angels' dynamic rookie has indeed sent a jolt through the team since his promotion in late April.

The Angels were floundering at the time, a moribund offense dragging down a team that had such high expectations going into the season. Ever since, Trout has given the Angels a gear that was lacking, sparking the offense from the top of the lineup.

The Angels have won 21-of-36 games with Trout starting at leadoff.

"He's been such a catalyst for us since he came up," manager Mike Scioscia said. "His talent speaks for itself. But to just grasp this guy being 20 years old and playing at such a high level, it's very, very impressive."

After going hitless in his first seven at-bats following his promotion from Class AAA on April 27, Trout has batted .346 (47-for-136) with 17 extra-base hits (nine doubles, three triples, five home runs), 22 RBI, 25 runs, 12 multi-hit games and the American League Rookie of the Month award for May.

The speed and raw athleticism are obvious. But Trout's comfort level and confidence as a 20-year-old are nearly as eye-catching. Last year's initial exposure to the majors (he hit only .220 in 40 games during two second-half call-ups from Double-A) helped this year's transition.

Trout has shown an innate ability to be in charge of every situation he's involved in even at such a young age.

"He has the ability to slow the game down when he has to," Scioscia said. "He doesn't panic in the batter's box."

That kind of discipline is something the Angels "tangibly needed," Scioscia said, to ignite an offense that has struggled with on-base percentage for most of the last two seasons.

It is not something in which you expect a 20-year-old to lead the way.

"And this guy is still learning; that's scary," Hunter said. "When you've got that much speed plus plate discipline, that's the most impressive thing to me. He's up there, working all those 3-and-2 counts. Most guys when they're 20 years old, they're looking up into the stands after every swing (because they swing so hard). This guy is very impressive.

"It usually takes 1,500 at-bats to really get to know this league. What's he going to do after 1,500 at-bats? He's going to tear this league up. He has great speed and great plate discipline. You can't teach that. To have that ability at age 20? It's impressive."

Ask Trout for his perspective, however, and he sounds very much like a 20-year-old.

"It's a blast, man," he said. "It's fun winning. We're pitching well and hitting well. It's been great so far. I'm just trying to have fun. If you're not having fun up here, something's messed up."

Weaver playing long toss, might be able to return shortly
   --RHP Jered Weaver (back strain) has extended his long-toss throwing program to over 250 feet and could throw off a mound in the next few days. The Angels are growing optimistic that Weaver will be ready to rejoin their rotation shortly after he is eligible to come off the disabled list next Wednesday and won't need a minor league injury-rehabilitation assignment first.
   --Manager Mike Scioscia said he plans to play DH Kendrys Morales at first base with Albert Pujols moving to third base for at least one or two games during the Angels' six-game stretch of interleague games in National League parks, where the designated hitter will not be used, starting Friday in Colorado. Morales has not played defense in a game since he broke his left ankle on May 29, 2010. Morales' bat is worth the effort to keep in the lineup. After an unproductive stretch through most of May, Morales is batting .321 (17- for-53) with four home runs, 10 runs and 12 RBI over the last 13 games.
   --RHP LaTroy Hawkins made his second appearance with Class AAA Salt Lake and third overall on a rehab assignment Thursday night in Tacoma. He pitched a scoreless inning, allowing a hit and a walk. Hawkins also pitched a scoreless inning for Salt Lake on Tuesday, retiring the side on nine pitches, and he likely will be activated from the disabled list this weekend. Hawkins had a 1.08 ERA in 10 appearances for the Angels before breaking a finger on his pitching hand May 6.
   --LHP C.J. Wilson will start the opener of the Angels' three-game series in Colorado on Friday night. His next victory will be the 50th of Wilson's big-league career. When he gets it, he will be one of seven active players with at least 50 career victories and 50 career saves. Wilson has allowed only one earned run in 20 innings over his last three starts, while holding batters to a .129 average.
   BY THE NUMBERS: 3.43 -- ERA for the Angels' starting pitchers, lowest in the American League through Wednesday's games.
   QUOTE TO NOTE: "It doesn't make any difference to me. You  know, I was a shortstop. My dad and everybody said, 'If you can play shortstop, you can play any position.' So I don't have any problem playing wherever." -- 1B Albert Pujols, on moving to third base for a couple games in order to get DH Kendrys Morales in the lineup during interleague games in NL parks.

   --C Bobby Wilson (concussion) went on the seven-day disabled list June 5.
   --C Chris Iannetta (fractured right wrist) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 9. He underwent surgery May 11, and he was cleared to begin "aggressive baseball activities" in early June. He might be begin a rehab assignment as soon as June 9.
   --RHP LaTroy Hawkins (broken right pinkie finger) went on the 15-day disabled list May 7. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Inland Empire on June 3, then moved his rehab to Class AAA Salt Lake on June 5. He is expected to be activated during the weekend of June 8-10.
   --RHP Jered Weaver (strained lower back) went on the 15-day disabled list May 29. He was playing long-toss as of June 7, and it was uncertain whether he'd need a rehab start before rejoining the Angels.
   --OF Vernon Wells (torn ulnar collateral ligament in right thumb) went on the 15-day disabled list May 21. He underwent surgery May 22, and he is expected to be sidelined until mid- to late July.
   --OF Ryan Langerhans (separated right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list May 21. He will not need surgery.
   --OF Jeremy Moore (left hip surgery in March 2012) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 13.
   --RHP Michael Kohn (flexor strain in right arm) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 21. He underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery April 12.