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Angels

Alex Rodriguez on Mike Trout: ‘We still have not seen his best baseball yet’

Dodgers at Angels vs Spring Training, Anaheim, USA - 24 Mar 2019
Angels center fielder Mike Trout is under contract with the team for the next 12 seasons.
(Etienne Laurent / EPA)

Players who sign massive contracts often feel excessive pressure to prove their worth, but Alex Rodriguez, who spent much of his 22-year career as baseball’s highest-paid player, believes Angels star Mike Trout will be impervious to such stress after signing a 12-year, $426.5-million deal.

“He has great parents. He has incredible DNA. Speaking to him, he has not changed one bit from the minute he walked into the big leagues,” Rodriguez, the former slugger and current ESPN broadcaster, said of Trout on a recent conference call.

“In one of our pregame interviews where he was talking about his hitting, he had as many questions off camera as I had for him on camera. So he still has an incredible amount of humility, of hunger, and I just think that while he’s off to a historic start, we still have not seen his best baseball yet.”

Rodriguez, who hit 696 homers from 1994-2016, signed two massive deals, for 10 years and $252 million with Texas before 2001 and for 10 years and $275-million deal to remain with the New York Yankees before 2008.

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The second contract came before Rodriguez’s fifth season in New York. That Trout, a two-time American League most valuable player, opted to stay with the club he has spent his entire 7½-year career with should ease the kind of pressure some free agents feel after big-money moves.

Albert Pujols hit .217 with no homers and four RBIs in the first month of 2012 after signing a 10-year, $240-million deal with the Angels. Jason Heyward (.252, 26 homers, 165 RBIs in three years) has struggled since signing an eight-year, $184-million deal with the Chicago Cubs before 2016.

“I had two big changes, and they were completely different, like night and day,” Rodriguez said. “The move from Seattle to Texas was the biggest and most profound. When I came back to New York is a better comparison to Trout, because it was business as usual.

“I did not feel any more pressure than I already faced by playing in New York. But in that first move from Seattle to Texas, it was a huge added pressure for sure, going from a smaller market to a bigger market in Dallas.”

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Angels general manager Billy Eppler was the Yankees assistant GM when Rodriguez signed that second contract. His comfort level and close relationship with Trout — along with a conversation he had with former Yankees GM Gene “Stick” Michael, who died in 2017 — eased any concerns about signing Trout to the largest contract in North American sports history.

“Stick used to tell me in my early days, he’d ask the question, ‘Can you trust the player with the contract?’ ” Eppler said. “There wasn’t somebody that I’ve come across that checked the boxes like Mike does.

“You trust his intentions. You trust how he’s going to take care of himself, how he’s going to approach the game, how he’s going to be inside the clubhouse. For us, it was a pretty easy visualization and pretty easy to get in the mind-set that Mike needs to stay here.”

Short hops

Andrew Heaney threw 20 pitches in the bullpen on Monday, the first time the left-hander has thrown off a mound since he was instructed to stop throwing because of elbow inflammation on March 19. Barring a setback, Heaney, who will open the season on the injured list, will repeat the workout Wednesday, part of the progression toward building up his pitch count and facing hitters. … Tyler Skaggs allowed one hit in 5 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out seven and walking none, in a minor league game in Arizona on Monday, the left-hander’s final spring tune-up for his scheduled regular-season debut at Oakland on Sunday. … Pitcher Daniel Hudson, released by the Angels last week, signed with Toronto and will open the season in the Blue Jays’ bullpen.


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