Fans clamored for Mark Trumbo to play every day over struggling left fielder Vernon Wells in April. Five months later, there is a similar sentiment for Wells to play instead of Trumbo.
It’s not that Wells has morphed into Miguel Cabrera. It’s that Trumbo has done a nose-dive from those boom times of the first half of the season, when he teamed with heralded rookie Mike Trout to lift the Angels out of their early-season funk.
Trumbo was batting .306 with a team-leading 27 home runs and 69 runs batted in on July 28. In 36 games since, he is hitting .174 (24 for 138) with three home runs, 14 RBIs, 58 strikeouts and nine walks, his average dropping to .269.
An All-Star and the team’s full-time cleanup batter in July, Trumbo did not start Tuesday night against the Oakland Athletics, the third time in seven games he was not in the lineup. Friday night against Detroit, Trumbo was pulled for pinch-hitter Alberto Callapso, who delivered a game-winning single.
With 20 games left and the Angels fighting for a playoff berth, Manager Mike Scioscia grapples with the daily decision to give Trumbo a chance to swing his way out of his slump or start players — Wells or perhaps Peter Bourjos — who give the Angels a better chance to win.
“There are a finite amount of games,” Scioscia said. “It’s a Catch-22. He has to go out there and swing, and right now his struggles are costing him some at-bats.
“When he finds it, he usually keeps it, and it can come quickly. We need him, and we’ll definitely give him enough chances to get there with the option of spotting Vernon or some other guys to give us a little boost if he continues to struggle.”
Trumbo is expanding the strike zone, swinging at pitches above his shoulders, pitches that nearly hit him and the usual slump-inducers for young power hitters — sweeping breaking balls away. There has been no quick fix. His problems are physical and mental.
“He’s trying to balance finding that feel in the box with the right amount of work on fundamentals and mechanics to getting away from all that and clearing his mind,” Scioscia said. “There are some things going on with his load, his balance, that are making him kind of jumpy.”
Reliever Jordan Walden has regained most of his fastball velocity after sitting out five weeks of July and August because of a nerve problem in his neck, though it’s hard to tell. The hard-throwing right-hander’s scoreless ninth inning Monday night was only his second appearance in 12 days.
“It’s been tough because I’m not pitching as much as I’d like, but I’m always ready,” said Walden, the team’s closer last season. “I’m not surprised. The team is playing well, and the guys pitching ahead of me are doing great.”
Maicer Izturis update
Utility infielder Maicer Izturis, who suffered a left rib-cage injury Saturday, underwent an MRI test Tuesday that showed no significant damage. Izturis has not resumed baseball activities, but he hopes to be ready to play this weekend in Kansas City.