Trumbo's move to 3B to make or break Angels
TEMPE, Ariz. — As good as the Los Angeles Angels look
on paper heading into the first week of exhibition games, manager Mike Scioscia
will be the first one to tell you that looks can indeed be deceiving.
"All you have to do is look at the (Arizona) Diamondbacks last year,"
Scioscia reminded. "Nobody picked them to do anything, yet they had one of
the best records in baseball. You have to play the games to find out who's
actually the best out there."
Unless everyone is 179 degrees off with their impressions, the Angels will be
one of the top teams this year. Signing Albert Pujols, adding C.J. Wilson to an
already stellar starting staff and figuring in some good health for Kendrys
Morales makes it easy to forecast the kind of season the Halos should have.
But there are some rather large questions about a few
members of the current roster. The answers could determine the Angels' level of
success in 2012.
Will closer Jordan Walden dramatically cut down the number of blown saves (10)
he had in 2011? Will Peter Bourjos be as effective — offensively and
defensively — playing the entire season with a troublesome hip? Can Vernon
Wells rebound from the worst season of a very good career? What does Torii
Hunter have left in the tank at age 36? And will Chris Iannetta provide some
much-desired offense from the catcher's position?
The question that looms largest — along with Morales’ return to full strength —
is whether or not Mark Trumbo can make the move from first base to third. The
answer could make or break the Angels.
If the Sporting News 2011 Rookie of the Year makes a successful switch, the
Halos' production problem at the hot corner will likely be a thing of the past.
If he can't, less productive players such as Alberto Callaspo and Maicer
Izturis will be forced to play there, and Scioscia will have to figure a way to
get the power-hitting Trumbo at least 500 at-bats.
The optimum situation is for Trumbo to claim the position with a stellar
all-around performance this spring. It hadn't really been talked about — Trumbo
winning the job outright and playing 130-140 games there — but Scioscia is all
"Why not?" Scioscia asked a group of reporters gathered in his Tempe
Diablo Stadium office. "He's an agile guy and he certainly has the arm to
play third. He has to work on positioning and learning the nuances of playing
there, but there's definitely a chance he can get most of the (playing) time.
That was sweet news for Trumbo, who was cleared last Tuesday to resume full baseball
activities after recovering from a broken foot sustained last season.
"That's a great feeling," he said when informed of his manager's
comments. "That's what I was always hoping for, but I'd been hearing that
it would be somewhere around 60 games and then some DH and some first base when
Albert needs a day (off). Maybe even some time in the outfield. But I
really want to play third and show that I can make the move.
"My main goal (at third base) is to make the routine play consistently.
I'd like to make some of the spectacular plays, too, but I'm realistic and know
that I need to make the routine plays.
"My arm is there; I've been throwing really well. But we just haven't had
the time for me to work on the lateral movement and the bunt plays, but
everything so far that's been hit at me, I've done pretty well."
Players and coaches will always say that along with talent,
you must be supremely confident in your ability to play the hot corner.
According to those who know him best, that's one of Trumbo's best attributes.
"He got a look in his eye when he's out there, at bat or in the field, that
tells you how into the game he is," hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said.
"Just the way he carries himself out there shows that he's got confidence
in his abilities to play this game at a very high level.
"Whenever he needed to work on something at the plate, he kept at it until
he worked out whatever it was. When he first came into our organization, he
wasn't a good fielder at all. But he worked and worked and worked at it until
he became very good with the glove. He will not quit until he becomes a good
defensive third baseman, and then he'll keep working at it every day so he gets
“It's important for us to have him in the lineup regularly
because it makes the team that much better."
Trumbo agrees that the mental side of the game can make or break a player.
"Even when you might not be going well, you have to stay confident,"
he said. "I'm confident I can play (third) and play well. It's a
reactionary position, so you have to be focused at all times and I'm not at all
afraid of the ball when it's hit to me.
“I'm not afraid to put my nose right into it," he said
with a laugh, referring to the bloody nose he suffered when he misplayed a grounder
last week. "If it's hit right at me, I'll knock it down and make the play.
It may be ugly sometimes, but all that matters is making the play."
He's already well into his legendary preparation methods, watching videos of 6-foot-5
former Angel Troy Glaus and 6-4 Scott Rolen, big men who have played third very
well. Rolen is an eight-time Gold Glove winner and Glaus was the 2002 World
Series MVP for the Halos in their win over San Francisco.
If Trumbo is anywhere near as good as Rolen or Glaus with the glove, Trumbo
might have a shot at a World Series MVP trophy of his own.