Angels’ Mike Trout will adjust his approach, swing at more first pitches
Angels center fielder Mike Trout took a mighty hack at the first Cactus League pitch he saw Thursday and sent a fly ball to right-center field for an out.
This would be a normal occurrence for most major leaguers, who swung at the first pitch 25.2% of the time last season, but not for the ultra-patient Trout, who swung at the first pitch just 10.6% of the time.
That could change this season, as Trout looks to cut down on his American League-high 184 strikeouts, the only blemish on a most valuable player season in which he hit .287 with 36 homers, 111 runs batted in and 115 runs.
“I’m looking to drive the ball a little bit,” Trout said after going one for two with an RBI in a 3-2 exhibition-opening win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Tempe Diablo Stadium. “The biggest thing in cutting down strikeouts is getting a pitch early in the zone to drive. I’m going to work on that this spring.”
Trout, 23, said it’s obvious why he struck out so often in 2014. “Plain and simple, I was chasing the high pitch,” he said. “The majority of time, they’re balls.”
Trout’s ability to work deep counts helps him measure pitchers, but he is often behind in the count and has frustrated some by taking too many first-pitch fastballs down the middle. Trout had 401 two-strike counts last season, second-most in the league.
“Throughout my career, I’ve been taking,” said Trout, a career .341 hitter when he puts the first pitch in play. “I like to see pitches, but I’m going to get locked and loaded on the first pitch. If it’s in the zone, I’m going to take a hack at it.”
Trout hit .292 on the 27 times he put the ball in play on the first pitch last season. The league average in that situation is .336.
Some coaches might discourage a player of Trout’s stature from changing his approach, but Angels Manager Mike Scioscia believes Trout’s adjustments will be subtle.
“I think Mike Trout is going to do what he does best,” Scioscia said. “If it’s a situation where he should work the count, he’ll work the count. If he’s on a pitcher and is going to jump on a first pitch, he will. I don’t think Mike is going to change too many things. They’re going to be small adjustments.”
The players union reiterated comments that Executive Director Tony Clark made at Angels camp Wednesday, issuing a statement condemning leaks of confidential information regarding Angels outfielder Josh Hamilton, who is expected to be suspended after a relapse involving drug abuse.
“It is regrettable that people who want to see Josh Hamilton hurt personally and professionally have started leaking information about the status of his treatment program,” the statement said. “These anonymous leaks are cowardly, undermine the integrity of our collectively bargained agreements and in some instances have been wholly inaccurate.”
Several news outlets reported that Hamilton’s relapse involved cocaine and alcohol. The Times reported Thursday that a four-person baseball panel is split on whether Hamilton should enter a rehabilitation program for substance abuse.
“The players association will use every right we have to make sure Josh gets the help he needs, and the fair and confidential process to which he is entitled,” the statement said.
Scioscia has been in touch with Hamilton, who is rehabilitating from right-shoulder surgery in Houston.
“We’re all waiting for direction from MLB to see what his status is,” Scioscia said. “Everyone wants to get some clarity there, including Josh.”
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna
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