In a corner of the Angels’ clubhouse, Josh Hamilton was talking about the thumb injury that has kept him out of the lineup for three weeks and could keep him out for another three. In the center of the clubhouse, the television flashed news that Bryce Harper had a thumb injury that could keep him out for two months.
Hamilton tore a ligament on a headfirst slide into first base. Harper tore a ligament on a headfirst slide into third base.
Mike Trout slides headfirst. There could be no greater calamity for the Angels than for Trout to suffer a major injury, yet their franchise player says he is not about to change his game.
“I’m going to keep sliding headfirst,” Trout said. “I’ve been doing it my whole career. I’m going to keep on doing it.”
Trout delivered a victory Monday without putting his body at risk. He tripled and scored the game’s first run, then singled home the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of the Angels’ 6-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Joe Smith, who replaced Ernesto Frieri as the Angels’ closer Friday, converted his first save opportunity by working a scoreless ninth inning. Smith, who signed with the Angels in the off-season after five years in Cleveland, was facing his former team for the first time.
Trout said the Angels have not asked him to abandon the headfirst slide, and Manager Mike Scioscia shrugged at the question of whether he cringes whenever Trout dives into a base.
“I don’t know,” Scioscia said. “The athleticism of a player usually keeps him out of harm’s way, to a certain extent. Headfirst slides are much more prevalent than they ever have been. Some guys grow up doing it at a young age, and they are very comfortable with it.”
Trout said that was his case.
“I just go out and play,” he said. “I don’t worry about getting hurt.”
However, he said, he would be far more likely to slide headfirst into second base than into first, as Hamilton did, or into third, as Harper did.
“I don’t think you’ll see me slide headfirst into first,” Trout said. “And third base is different. You have a chance to get hit in the face.”
Scioscia said players can get injured sliding with their feet first and said a headfirst slide might come down to instinct. However, former Angels outfielder Tim Salmon said he believed players could learn to curb any such instinct.
As an outfielder, Salmon was known for his sliding, rather than diving, catches. He taught himself to play that way, he said, because the Angels needed his bat in the lineup, and a diving catch represented an increased risk of injury.
Garret Anderson, another longtime mainstay in the Angels lineup, has said he did not often dive because the Angels needed him to hit every day, not to try to make one play that could sideline him for weeks.
“It’s an investment,” Salmon said. “It’s your hands. That’s a huge deal.”
Salmon, an Angels television analyst, lives in Arizona and volunteers as an assistant coach for a high school team. When Hamilton got injured, Salmon said, “I told my high school kids, ‘That is why we will not dive on the bases.’ ”
Said Salmon: “You’re setting yourself up for disaster.”
The Angels will give away Hamilton bobblehead dolls Friday. If not for a headfirst slide into first base, they might have had Hamilton in the lineup that night.