But into the Angel Stadium interview room he rolled Wednesday, before the Angels lost 3-2 to the Oakland Athletics, sporting a smile and his customary backward ball cap, laughing about the vehicle that made crossing the ground level of the ballpark easier.
A fluke injury ended the season for the Angels center fielder three weeks too soon. Pain in Trout’s right foot had bothered him for nearly a month leading up to his last game. Trout resolved the problem Friday, having surgery to remove an irritated nerve.
The operation provided relief.
Mike Trout rolled into the interview room on a scooter to address media for the first time since surgery. Here he is rolling out pic.twitter.com/aIr1TYAiiZ— Maria Torres (@maria_torres3) September 25, 2019
It also gave Trout a chance to offer his thoughts on this topsy-turvy season, a six-month span in which Trout put up some of the best numbers of his career and prop up his team after the death of teammate Tyler Skaggs in July.
“It was obviously a tough year for the whole club, the whole team,” Trout said, voice steady and eyes clear. “Losing Tyler was tough. … The time when Tyler passed, that was the time for me to step up and take that [leadership] role.
“I think Tyler would want that. We were going through something I wouldn’t wish on anybody. We were going through tough times, and I felt like the team needed it and needed that guy to come out there and talk.”
Despite his efforts, the Angels are staggering to the finish line and trying to avoid becoming the first Angels team to lose 90 games since 1999. They have four games remaining, all against the American League West division champion Houston Astros, after Wednesday’s game with the Oakland Athletics.
It will not be an easy task. The Angels are 4-11 against the Astros.
Yet, Trout could at least feel positive about his campaign, which was strong enough to make him the favorite for a third most valuable player award. In the first year of his 12-year, $426.5-million contract, Trout hit a career-high 45 home runs, drove in more than 100 runs (104) for the first time since 2016 and batted .291 in 134 games. Entering Wednesday, he led the major leagues in on-base percentage (.438), owned the highest AL on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.083) and was tied for the AL lead in home runs despite not having played since Sept. 7.
“Just offensively in the box, this is the best I’ve [ever] felt,” Trout said.
Trout has kept close tabs on the MVP race. He knows many support the case of Astros infielder Alex Bregman, against whom Trout competes in a fantasy football league. Bregman entered Wednesday with a .295 average and 1.009 OPS. He had career highs in home runs (40), walks (112), runs batted in (109) and runs (118). He was also scheduled to play shortstop in place of the injured Carlos Correa for the 63rd time this season. Bregman, a former college shortstop who stuck in the major leagues as a third baseman, had played 64 MLB games at shortstop in his previous three seasons.
“He’s having an unbelievable year,” Trout said.
But he didn’t hesitate to follow that up.
“I feel like this is my best year,” Trout said. “Obviously, it sucks I’m not playing the last few weeks.”
A’s rally against Angels in ninth
Before Hansel Robles gave up a go-ahead, two-run home run in the ninth inning to Matt Chapman of the wild-card-chasing Oakland Athletics, leading to a 3-2 loss at Angel Stadium, Angels starter Andrew Heaney reclaimed the last vestiges of an injury-shortened season.
In his final start of the year, Heaney successfully navigated traffic, struck out seven batters and limited hard contact over 51/3, one-run innings.
The only damage done to his line came courtesy of outfielder Ramon Laureano, who crushed a high fastball for a home run that tied the score 1-1 in the fifth inning.
Although it was a shorter season finale than Heaney would have preferred, his efforts were enough to help him lower his earned-run average to 4.91.
Elbow inflammation claimed part of Heaney’s spring training and the first two months of the season, and shoulder irritation sidelined him from July 16 to Aug. 10.
Yet, Heaney will still finish the season as the team leader in starts (18) and strikeouts (118) for the second year in a row, a development made possible by the slew of injuries that ravaged the Angels rotation.