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OC Register: Angels’ Mike Trout finishing season strong despite concerns about back injury


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ANAHEIM — Just about two months after the baseball world was shaken by news that Angels star Mike Trout had a rare back condition that could affect him throughout his career, Trout has done all he can to ease those concerns.

Since Trout returned from a five-week stint on the injured list on Aug. 18, he’s started 36 of 39 games. He’s been the DH for three of those. Coming into Friday’s game, Trout had hit .287 with 14 homers and 1.001 OPS in 35 games. Although his on-base percentage is a little down and his slugging percentage is up, it’s added up to almost exactly his 1.000 career OPS.

Perhaps more important than the way he’s swung the bat has been the way he’s handled his back injury though.

“I think he’s done a great job,” head athletic trainer Mike Frostad said on Friday. “He’s consistent with everything he does. He’s developed a good routine for himself. And I think it’s been great. We’re seeing him out there everyday again, which is what we want from Mike Trout.”

Frostad was the one who started the firestorm on July 27 in Kansas City, when he updated reporters on Trout’s back. Trout had been out for a couple of weeks with what the Angels were calling back spasms, but on that day Frostad said the condition was more specifically a “costovertebral dysfunction at T5.” Frostad said it was rare, and that Trout would have to stay on top of it throughout his career.

After a few hours of people texting Trout concerned about his career, Trout said he wasn’t worried. He said he understood perfectly that he’d need to do some extra work to maintain his back to keep the condition under control.

He seems to have done that. Frostad said Trout had not reported any issues to him since coming back.

Now, Frostad said there’s nothing extra that Trout, 31, will need to do over the winter. The plan is for him to be used without any special restrictions next year.

“Just the regular scheduled (days off) that the manager wants to give him,” Frostad said. “With everything, we just have to take it day by day, year by year, but I think right now the way things look, it’s looking good for next year.”

FUTURE FOR BARRIA

Jaime Barria said through an interpreter that “a stronger mentality,” was the key to “the best year I’ve had.”

Barria has a 2.70 ERA after 33 games and 76-1/3 innings, working mostly in long relief.

The Angels had bounced Barria between starting and relieving, between Triple-A and the majors, for most of his big league career, but this season he settled into a role in the bullpen and he accepted it.

“I definitely want to start, but whatever role they want, I’m willing to do,” he said. “I’ll do whatever they ask.”

Barria’s success in low-leverage spots raised the question of whether the Angels should either have him start or pitch in a more prominent role in the bullpen. Manager Phil Nevin said he believes Barria still provided plenty of value doing what he did, particularly by saving the other pitchers.

“I think really there’s a lot of different places where he can pitch in a game,” Nevin said. “He’s always ready. He’s always wanting the ball. He’s always answered the bell when we’ve asked him. Even times when maybe he doesn’t feel good, he always tells you ‘I’m good. I want to pitch today.’ Those guys are very valuable to a team. Whether it’s a team that wasn’t doing well and struggling like we were or a championship team, you need guys like that.”

NOTES

Right-hander Archie Bradley said he was disappointed by the way his season ended, with a third trip to the injured list. Bradley had been back from rehabbing his broken elbow for just a couple of days when he felt a forearm strain. “I know I didn’t do what I was supposed to do here, so that’s frustrating for sure,” Bradley said. …

A day after Shohei Ohtani lost his no-hit bid in the eighth inning, Nevin said he wondered if they had positioned shortstop Livan Soto properly on the first hit of the game. Soto was shaded up the middle when left-handed hitting Conner Capel hit one to Soto’s backhand, and he couldn’t make the play. Nevin said, in retrospect, there was nothing wrong with his positioning. “On our models, our defensive stuff, he was exactly where he’s supposed to be,” Nevin said. “It was just a really just a really tough play.”

UP NEXT

Angels (LHP José Suarez, 7-8, 4.06) vs. Rangers (LHP Cole Ragans, 0-3, 5.40), Saturday, 6:07 p.m., Bally Sports West, 830 AM

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4 hours ago, AngelsWin.com said:

Barria’s success in low-leverage spots raised the question of whether the Angels should either have him start or pitch in a more prominent role in the bullpen. Manager Phil Nevin said he believes Barria still provided plenty of value doing what he did, particularly by saving the other pitchers.

I’m not that moved by Barría.

He has put up a good ERA this season, but his FIP, xFIP, SIERA, and K% are all below league average.

So is his fastball velocity, and the eye test shows that his command isn’t very good. At least a couple times every outing, he hangs a breaking ball.

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I think Barria's key to continued success will be his control and pure BAbip luck. His baseball savant has him well below average in almost every category, especially xBA, xSlg, and barrel%. He is above average in BB% and Hard hit %, which implies he's been good with his command. 

Barria reminds me of how Julio Teheran was on the Braves. Two guys who don't have very good stuff and poor advanced metrics, yet somehow continued to be useful. Hopefully Barria can continue to be effective in the bullpen, specifically in long relief. 

Whenever he starts to suck (ideally after his Angels career), he's a pretty easy cut.

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