Mike Trout was scratched from the lineup for Monday night’s game against the Miami Marlins because of the same stomach bug that sidelined the Angels center fielder for two of the three exhibition games against the Dodgers last week.
“He was out there doing his early work and trying to fight through a couple of things when I got wind of it, so I went outside to talk with him, and we went over the whole thing, you know, what’s the best thing to do right now?” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s Game 5. Let’s just be smart about this.
“He will be available later in the game. I’d rather have him not start the game and then pop him into the game in a crucial moment, as opposed to having to take him out.”
Trout, the three-time American League most valuable player, went three for 11 with one homer in the season-opening four-game series against the Houston Astros, his 445-foot blast to left-center field helping the Angels win Saturday night’s game 2-0.
But Trout suffered a season-ending right-calf injury last May 17, and with flu symptoms possibly leaving him susceptible to dehydration, the Angels didn’t want to risk another muscle strain or pull.
“You’re always concerned about that,” Angels head athletic trainer Mike Frostad said. “With his history of soft-tissue injuries, we just want to be cautious with him. It’s early in the year, and we don’t want to run the risk of having somebody go down with a soft-tissue injury at this point of the season.
Brandon Marsh moved from left field to center field, and Jo Adell, who went hitless in nine at-bats with seven strikeouts against the Astros, moved into the lineup as the left fielder.
Trout said after Sunday’s game that he spoke to Adell, a 23-year-old who has been one of the organization’s top prospects for several years, and encouraged him not to try to do too much at the plate.
“You know, sometimes you come up here and press a little bit,” Trout said. “Yeah, he’s young. So just try to be yourself. I think for anybody at the plate, if you try to be someone you’re not, if you’re trying to hit the ball so far, it’s not gonna work. He’ll figure it out.”
Trout’s advice seems to be working. Adell crushed a solo home run in his first at-bat Monday night, smoking a 1-and-0, 90-mph fastball from Marlins right-hander Elieser Hernandez to right-center field to give the Angels a 4-0 lead in the second inning, the ball leaving his bat at 109.7 mph and traveling 430 feet.
Adell hit .286 (12 for 42) with three homers and nine RBIs in 16 spring training games, and the Astros overwhelmed him with a steady diet of breaking balls, most of them sweeping off the outside corner. Adell put only two balls in play, grounding out twice. He entered Monday night with a 34.8% contact rate, the lowest in the major leagues.
“That’s the first time Houston has done that to me,” Adell said before Monday night’s game. “A big part of it is I hit fastballs really well in spring training. I did not miss a lot of fastballs, and I think, you know, Dusty [Baker, Astros manager] and the team kind of took note of that and definitely went the other direction.
“It’s the game of baseball. You adjust, they adjust back, you adjust back to their adjustment, you know? That’s really where we’re at.”
Talking with Trout, Adell said, “kind of gave me a little bit of a boost, like, ‘Hey, you were the guy a couple of weeks ago in spring training, the whole entire time,’ you know what I’m saying?
“So, I did scuffle a little bit and it has been a tough start. But it’s nine at-bats of 550. There are a lot of at-bats, a lot of games, and there’s a lot of things that can happen. My thing is to get back in my rhythm, get back in my flow.”
Adell took his lumps in pandemic-shortened 2020, batting .161 with a .478 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, three homers and seven RBIs and looking uncomfortable in right field for much of his 35-game stint in Anaheim.
He struggled after his early-August promotion last season, hitting .194 with a .549 OPS, one homer and 12 RBIs in his first 18 games, but he finished with a flourish, batting .302 with an .867 OPS, three homers and 14 RBIs in his final 17 games.
His confidence hasn’t wavered in the face of his sluggish start to 2022.
“You can’t be up here and do the things I’ve done and have the success I’ve had and then not be confident in myself,” he said. “That’s not even in question. The at-bats have gone sideways, not only for me but for the team. We’re trying to get back in the swing of things.”
Maddon said the game seemed to speed up on Adell during the Astros series.
“Things got a little bit quick for him — you’ve just got to slow him down, that’s it,” Maddon said. “He’s just underneath some pitches that I thought he was squaring up. Like the breaking ball … I mean, he can really crush a breaking ball. It’s just some were maybe a little bit too wide, and has to get them over the plate more.
“Right now, he might be in more of a chase mode. That would just be eagerness, being little bit fast. Once you’re able to take a deep breath and slow the hamster wheel down, all of a sudden you’re fine.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism