Could Mike Trout move from center field? Joe Maddon says Angels have talked about it

Angels' Mike Trout looks over from the dugout before a game against the Dodgers in 2021.
Angels star Mike Trout missed most of the 2021 season with a right calf strain.
(Alex Gallardo/Associated Press)

The idea didn’t just come out of left field. The Angels know they’ll have to move star center fielder Mike Trout to a corner spot at some point. A right calf strain that sidelined the three-time American League most valuable player for most of 2021 may push that transition up to this season.

“To play center field every day in the big leagues coming off a severe injury, that’s not gonna be easy,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said Sunday in advance of Monday’s first spring training workout.

“Then again, playing left field in our park is not easy. It gets big. No conclusions have been made, but I’d be disingenuous if I didn’t tell you that this hasn’t been part of the conversation, because it has.”


Trout, 30, is scheduled to address the media Monday. The Angels would like to get the 6-foot-2, 235-pounder off his feet with more starts at designated hitter, but that’s rarely an option with two-way star Shohei Ohtani, the 2021 AL MVP, holding down the DH spot.

Here are the biggest issues the Dodgers and Angels need to address as they get ready for the 2022 season now that the MLB lockout is over.

March 10, 2022

One way to ease the wear and tear on Trout would be to move him to left and start 24-year-old Brandon Marsh, a more-than-capable defender who struggled at the plate last season, in center, with Jo Adell or Justin Upton playing right.

Trout, in the fourth year of a 12-year, $426.5-million contract, was on the other end of such a move in 2012 when, as a 20-year-old rookie, he bumped nine-time Gold Glove-winning center fielder Torii Hunter, then 36, to right.

As of Sunday, Maddon hadn’t spoken to Trout about the potential move, one of many issues to be sorted out during a lockout-shortened, 24-day camp. Among the others:


Maddon’s future

Angels manager Joe Maddon heads to the mound to relieve a pitcher against the Seattle Mariners in October.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)


The three-year, $12-million contract Maddon signed before 2020 includes a $4-million team option for 2023, a person familiar with the deal but not authorized to speak publicly about it confirmed Sunday.

That could reduce the sense of urgency Maddon, 68, might otherwise feel to negotiate an extension and eliminate his “lame-duck” status this spring. It might also explain why Maddon has “not been approached yet” about an extension.

Maddon, who guided Tampa Bay to the 2008 AL pennant and the Chicago Cubs to the 2016 World Series title, has had two fourth-place finishes in Anaheim, but he said he feels great physically and has the energy and desire to continue managing.

“I don’t see a cap on it yet,” he said. “If I didn’t think I was any good at it, I would walk away. I look forward to working for several more years, and this is my home, so I’d love to stay here.”


Shortstop competition

Angels shorstop Luis Rengifo throws to first base during a game against the Texas Rangers in September.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)


Barring a free-agent acquisition or trade, switch-hitters Andrew Velazquez, claimed off waivers from the New York Yankees in November, and Luis Rengifo will battle for the shortstop job.

Maddon said Velazquez, who hit .224 in 68 big league games last season, enters camp as the slight favorite, but Rengifo’s stock rose with a strong final month to 2021, when he hit .250 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 26 games.

“That last month was the best I’ve seen him play baseball, both offensively, defensively, mentally,” Maddon said, “so that was encouraging.”

Tyler Wade is also in the mix. The Angels could slide David Fletcher from second base to shortstop, but they don’t necessarily view him as a fallback option.

“There’s been strong opinions about David going there right now, but David, to me, is the best second baseman in the league,” Maddon said. “When you play David at second, you’re just a better ballclub, but if you feel like he might be your best option at shortstop, you have to consider that too.”


Buttressing the bullpen

Angels reliever Ty Buttrey delivers during a game in September 2020.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

The relief corps could receive a boost from a familiar arm — Ty Buttrey, who was one of the team’s primary setup men in 2019 before struggling in 2020 and abruptly retiring before 2021, is back in camp.

“The world can become complicated,” Maddon said of Buttrey’s decision to walk away from the game at age 27. “He found out how much he missed this and how much he wanted to be back here.”

Maddon watched the 6-6, 240-pound right-hander, who complements a 97-mph fastball with a curve and changeup, throw on Saturday.

The Major League Baseball lockout has ended, with players and team owners agreeing in principle to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.

March 10, 2022

“It was the big, tall angle, and it was coming out hot,” Maddon said. “It will be real interesting to watch because this guy can be a real bonus if he gets everything back together. He can be dominant.”


Help wanted

The Angels reportedly agreed to terms with backup catcher Kurt Suzuki on a one-year, $1.75-million deal, but as of Sunday afternoon, they hadn’t bolstered a pitching staff that added starters Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen and reliever Aaron Loup in November.

“We definitely took a step in the right direction with Noah, Lorenzen and Loup, and hopefully we’re not done yet,” Maddon said. “You can’t get to the dance, you can’t get to the last game and win it, unless you have pitching. … That’s what we’re working on right now. I think we need to get a little thicker.”


New rules

The Angels will seek clarification from the league on how the universal DH, adopted in the new collective bargaining agreement, will affect Ohtani.

“We just have to make sure they’re going to be fine with him hitting when he pitches,” Maddon said. “I don’t know if that’s been addressed yet. He needs to hit, or we’d be the only team playing National League rules when he pitches.”