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OC Register: Angels’ Mike Trout back on track thanks to new drill

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Joe Maddon said he learned early in his coaching career back in the 1980s that even the best hitters are constantly fighting to stay at that level.

“Even when you get to the point where you feel a guy’s accomplished, they all struggle, man,” the Angels manager said. “They all struggle, and they need help. They need work. They need a warm fuzzy once in a while.”

Mike Trout has spent much of this month looking for just that, after being uncomfortable at the plate.

“I was cutting off my swing really bad,” he said Thursday. “I was hitting everything on the label. Balls down the middle on the label. I just figured out some drills I can do and some stuff to keep me square. Some at-bats I feel good and some not, but I’m happy with the direction it’s going, because I actually figured out how to fix it.”

Trout said he’s been doing a drill that Shohei Ohtani also started doing last year, and it’s made a difference. Although he said he’d never done this particular drill, he characterized the process as just “minor changes… not like a swing change.”

Trout had three hits in his first 18 at-bats, but then six in his next 13 at-bats, including back-to-back two-hit games Monday and Wednesday.

“When you’re going good, you’re going good, but when you’re not feeling so good, you try to get back to feeling good,” Trout said. “It happens a lot. … It’s little stuff like this just just get back on track. You know, hitting is hard. It’s a grind. Sometimes you’re in a cage hitting a whole bucket, and sometimes you’re hitting five balls off the tee. It varies every day.”


After one hot month in games that count put Jared Walsh high in the Angels’ plans, Maddon isn’t ready to dismiss that based on one cold month in games that don’t.

“Guys ebb and flow all the time,” Maddon said. “I love his bat speed. I love his hands in his setup. I think he’s a very good first baseman. He’s got a high baseball IQ. So … spring training? I just can’t go to negative town on anybody, really.”

Walsh is 8 for 37 (.216) this spring, and he didn’t have an extra-base hit until a double Sunday. He has struck out 12 times and walked four times.

The Angels’ plan coming into the spring was for Walsh to get the majority of playing time at first base, based on his breakout in 2020. He hit .293 with a .971 OPS and nine homers in 99 at-bats, mostly in September.

Maddon pointed out that Walsh started slowly last summer, too. He also looks to Walsh’s career numbers in the minors as evidence that this spring is not a concern.

“What he did in September, to me, it’s not an anomaly,” Maddon said. “He’s done that before. He knows how to do it. I know it’s the minor leagues. I understand that. But I watched this guy very closely. The ball comes off the bat hot.”


After an off day Friday, the Angels will have Alex Cobb pitch their final Arizona exhibition game Saturday.

Andrew Heaney and Griffin Canning will each pitch a few innings in Sunday’s Freeway Series game against the Dodgers.

Shohei Ohtani will pitch Monday at Dodger Stadium. Maddon said he’s not sure if Ohtani will also hit in that game. Although it’s in a National League park, teams can use the DH whenever they want in exhibition games.

“We haven’t had that conversation yet (about Ohtani hitting),” Maddon said. “If he’s into it, I would.”

Jose Quintana will start the final exhibition at Dodger Stadium next Tuesday.

The Angels still haven’t announced who will start the rest of the season-opening four-game series against the Chicago White Sox, after Dylan Bundy pitches Opening Day.

Based on the current order, it would be Cobb, then Heaney and Canning in the next two. That would leave Ohtani to start the first game against the Houston Astros on April 5, followed by Quintana.


Maddon did not make any announcements Thursday about Jose Rojas, even though it seems apparent that the longtime minor-leaguer will break camp with the big-league team because the Angels sent out all the remaining middle infielders Wednesday. “There’s no white smoke or news to announce yet,” Maddon said with a smile, “but I talk to (Rojas) all the time. I’ve been a big fan.”

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