Mike Trout swung at the first pitch Baltimore right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez threw him Friday night at Camden Yards, a fastball in the upper corner of the strike zone. He missed. He swung at the second pitch Jimenez threw him, and missed again.
Down in an 0-2 hole, Trout tracked the next pitch for a ball, and then ripped the fourth for a single through to right field. It was his 24th hit of 2016 after staking the opposing pitcher to an 0-2 advantage, perhaps his most impressive feat in a season and career already replete with them.
Friday marked five years, to the day, that Trout made his major league debut.
He was 19 then, and success did not come right away. He had a .672 on-base-plus slugging percentage in limited time in 2011. Once opposing pitchers amassed two strikes against him, the teenage Trout could not compete. He struck out 30 times and walked twice.
This season, Trout has struck out 67 times and walked 35 times after two-strike counts. After pitchers have him cornered, 0-2, he has hit .333 with a .385 on-base percentage and .611 slugging percentage. His .996 OPS is, remarkably, almost identical to his overall 1.000 OPS.
Major leaguers are noticeably wary to delve into their two-strike approach. Trout has declined to speak specifically about what he is doing differently, but he has said on several occasions he is pleased with his lowered strikeout rate this season.
In 2014, he struck out in 26.1% of his plate appearances. He has brought that down to a career-low 18% in 2016, below the league average of 21%.
Soto up, Perez down
After Friday’s game, the Angels activated catcher Geovany Soto from the disabled list and optioned Carlos Perez to triple-A Salt Lake.
Perez opened the season as the team’s No. 1 catcher, but he hit .204 with a .235 on-base percentage and ceded his role to Soto. After Soto tore his meniscus in May, rookie Jett Bandy was recalled, and he, too, had taken starts from Perez.
Left-hander Tyler Skaggs did not complete the six innings he was scheduled to Thursday for triple-A Salt Lake. He tired after five and will be given extra days of rest before his subsequent start next week. … The Angels are likely to let left-hander David Huff sign with a Korean professional team. The journeyman started two games for them last month with subpar results and had since returned to the triple-A rotation. … The Angels agreed to terms on a slot-value signing bonus with second-round draft selection Brandon Marsh, a high school outfielder from Georgia. … Outfielder Craig Gentry’s minor league rehab assignment has been delayed by back tightness.