Mike Trout joined the Angels for their first full-squad workout Wednesday with two clear goals for 2015: cut down his strikeouts and increase his stolen bases.
The center fielder was a unanimous choice for American League most valuable player last season, batting .287 with 36 home runs, 111 runs batted in and 115 runs. But he led the league with 184 strikeouts and had only 16 stolen bases after swiping 82 the previous two seasons.
“Plain and simple, I was chasing the high pitch. Everybody knows that,” Trout said. “The majority of time, they’re balls, and I was chasing them.”
Trout, 23, plans to adjust some of his work in the batting cage this spring, but he did not spent countless hours over the off-season poring over video from 2014.
“I don’t like over-analyzing my swing,” he said. “I do stuff in the cage and in batting practice that will help me in the game, but I’ll keep my same routine. It’s been working for me. I don’t want to switch anything up.”
He was asked whether he would be willing to accept a high strikeout rate for a continuation of strong overall production.
“No, obviously you don’t want to strike out,” Trout said. “I want to put the ball in play, let my legs get a few more hits and try to get on base more.”
Manager Mike Scioscia said Trout's strikeouts are a result of his tendency to work counts and see as many pitches as he can, traits that have also made him one of baseball's best hitters.
“He got into a rut where the strikeouts started to creep up,” Scioscia said. “But his walks were high, and his runs and RBIs were off the charts. Mike has a really good idea at the plate. I think with experience, some of those [strikeout] numbers will level off a bit, but there’s no concern with us as far as that one statistic.”
Opponents did a good job of holding Trout on base last season, and it seemed Trout was hesitant to run because he was usually on first base when slugger Albert Pujols was up. But Trout plans to be more aggressive on the bases this season.
“I definitely want to steal more bases,” he said. “I want to get to second base as much as I can. I have to take more chances. They were doing a pretty good job of holding me on. The pitchers were really quick to the plate. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’ll do my best.”
Trout reported to camp at 239 pounds after playing most of the 2014 at 238 pounds.
“I’m right where I want to be,” he said. “I feel great.”
This is the first year of the six-year, $144.5-million contract Trout signed last spring, and after finishing second to Miguel Cabrera in MVP voting in 2012 and 2013, Trout claimed the league's premier award in 2014. But he'll have no shortage of motivation in 2015.
The Angels had a major league-best 98-64 record last season but were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Kansas City Royals, which didn’t sit well with Trout all off-season.
“Putting on a uniform every day, competing since I was a kid, that motivates me,” Trout said. “Trying to win a championship … if that doesn’t motivate you, you’re in the wrong sport. You’re here for one thing, you want that ring.”
Scioscia has said several times this spring that he doesn't expect Garrett Richards to return from knee surgery until at least mid-April.
But the right-hander, who is scheduled to throw his fourth bullpen session of the spring Thursday, remains focused on being ready for the April 6 opener.
"In my mind, I have one goal, to be ready for opening day, and I'm not going to change that regardless of what anyone says," Richards said. "I don't know why I would change my mind now. In my mind, opening day is still very possible."
A big test for Richards will come in the next 10 days, when he tries the left knee during fielding drills. As for his arm, Richards said, "Everything feels normal."