Angels take flight behind Mike Trout's big defensive plays

Angels take flight behind Mike Trout's big defensive plays
Angels center fielder Mike Trout leaps to rob Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki of a home run in the 10th inning on May 13 in Anaheim. (Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty Images)

Angels center fielder Mike Trout wasn't available to discuss his defensive heroics in a 2-1, 11-inning victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night.

By the time the clubhouse opened to the media, Trout was gone, off to LAX for a red-eye flight to the East Coast so he could spend Thursday's off day in his hometown of Millville, N.J.


"He got out of here quick," Angels reserve outfielder Collin Cowgill said about 20 minutes after the game. "Knowing him, he's probably on the plane by now. Or he's flying himself, sprouting some wings."

Cowgill was joking ... we think. In his third year as a teammate of Trout, the 2014 American League most valuable player and 2012 and 2013 MVP runner-up, Cowgill has learned that Trout has very few limitations and at times seems otherworldly.

"That dude continues to wow us," Cowgill said after Trout robbed Troy Tulowitzki of a home run with a leaping catch above the wall in the top of the 10th inning and threw out Carlos Gonzalez at the plate to end the top of the 11th. The Angels won on Albert Pujols' sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 11th.

"Big moments? He slows them down," Cowgill continued. "When the ball gets around that guy, good things happen, whether he's at the plate or on defense. Those plays don't get his heart pumping. He just slows things down and makes them when the game is on the line."

As impressive as Trout's catch of Tulowitzki's laser toward the gap was, his play on Gonzalez was even better, with a much higher degree of difficulty.

With the score tied, 1-1, one out and Gonzalez on third, Daniel Descalso took a full swing but hit a ball off the end of his bat into shallow center field. The speedy Trout raced in, made a running catch of the ball near his shins, gathered himself and threw home on the fly to nail Gonzalez, who had tagged up.

Gonzalez was initially ruled safe by home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, but the call was overturned after a 1-minute, 11-second instant-replay review that showed catcher Carlos Perez had applied the tag before Gonzalez's foot hit the plate.

"To field it low, set your feet and throw an absolute strike on the fly to home ... there are not many guys who can do that," said Cowgill, who was in left field at the time. "It's one of the tougher plays.

"Full swing, off the end of the bat, it's tough to read, and these stadiums are loud, so it's tough to hear. Normally, those balls fall in. But to make that play in that situation, a double play to end the inning and that being the go-ahead run, makes it that much better."

Trout's footwork and coordination were keys to the play, but it probably wouldn't have been possible without his improved throwing arm. The one knock on Trout was that he has an average throwing arm, but not anymore.

"His arm has improved a lot," said Angels bench coach Dino Ebel, who oversees the outfielders. "He's working at it, throwing long-toss with Kole [Calhoun] every three or four days, and you can see it coming.

"He's confident. He feels it. His arm is much stronger, and his accuracy is better. I said last year, when he comes to spring training and someone says he has a below-average or average arm, he's going to prove you wrong."

Trout has made several spectacular home-run-robbing catches, but he got to the wall so quickly and efficiently and timed his jump so perfectly on Tulowitzki's drive Wednesday night that the play almost looked routine.

"That's what Garrett was saying, that he makes it look so easy," Cowgill said, referring to pitcher Garrett Richards. "I feel like it's easy for him. He gets back to the wall so fast and knows where the ball is going to be, and he has an incredible knack for knowing when the ball is going to land.


"Everyone has an internal clock in baseball, infielders and outfielders. His is just more accurate. People don't get that many chances to rob home runs, and here we are in May, and he has, what, three? Some center fielders go entire seasons without robbing homers. It seems like he does it once a month."