Angels get a taste of playing against Mike Trout, the ‘best player in the world’

Mike Trout flies out during the third inning for Team USA during a World Baseball Classic exhibition Thursday.
Mike Trout flies out during the third inning for Team USA during a World Baseball Classic exhibition against the Angels on Thursday.
(Dylan Buell / Getty Images)
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Before the oddity that was facing his superstar center fielder Thursday, Angels manager Phil Nevin shared his strategy against Mike Trout with reporters. It was simple. After watching Trout get hit by a pitch against the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday — a scare that had everyone affiliated with the Angels and Team USA holding their collective breath — the Angels were going to pitch him away.

“And then the first pitch, or the second pitch, is up and in,” Trout said with a smile after exiting Team USA’s 6-0 win over the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Moments after spinning away from the dangerously close pitch, Trout just got under an offering from Tyler Anderson, the former Dodger, and skied a flyball to the warning track in left field to end his first at-bat at Tempe Diablo Stadium against his teammates. What would’ve been a two-run home run was a flyout.


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“And then they start chirping that I missed it,” Trout said jokingly.

Trout went 0 for 2 with a walk batting third for the Americans in their second of two exhibitions before the World Baseball Classic. Team USA will open Pool C play Saturday night against Britain at Chase Field, marking the end to the long preamble for Trout since he announced he would participate in the tournament for the first time last summer.

Trout became Team USA’s lead recruiter once he committed, helping general manager Tony Reagins and manager Mark DeRosa assemble the roster. His first call was to Philadelphia Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper, who was all in before requiring Tommy John surgery. Mookie Betts wasn’t far behind. Soon enough the U.S. had enough stars to field the greatest American lineup ever in an international competition.

Smack dab in the middle of the constellation is Trout, the team captain and, at 31, considered by many of his peers as the best position player in the world.

“He’s bringing the best player in the world into the clubhouse,” third baseman Nolan Arenado said. “He’s a great teammate, talking about the game. He’s always willing to talk about hitting and he works hard, man. This guy works his butt off now. Now I know why he’s the greatest.”

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Trout is one of several American stars playing in the WBC for the first time. He said he was motivated to participate after watching the high-energy, high-stakes games the U.S. won en route to the tournament title in 2017. Those types of games have been few and far between in his major league career. Trout has played in just three postseason games in his 12-year career — all in 2014 and all losses.

While Saturday’s opener won’t produce the best atmosphere the tournament has to offer — Britain isn’t exactly a baseball draw — Sunday’s game against Mexico is sold out. Intensity is expected.


“I’m sure there’s gonna be some big games coming up,” Trout said. “Obviously, the Mexico game on Sunday’s gonna be electric. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Angels left-hander Patrick Sandoval is scheduled to get that start Sunday for Mexico. It’ll be another chance for Trout to face a teammate. That game will matter more. The game plan won’t be as simple.