<
>

Two bright talents at different stages

Mike Trout was in fourth grade when Albert Pujols was baseball's most precocious talent, way back in 2001. Trout was a bigger fan of Derek Jeter's at the time.

"I kind of went with the Jersey guy," Trout said.

Now that Trout and Pujols are sharing the same work space -- clubhouses, airplanes and hotels all around the league -- Trout admits it's "definitely a little bit weird," but the 20-year-old outfielder has also gleaned bits of hitting advice from Pujols, who -- you might remember -- used to be a force in the batter's box.

"Once I got to know him and everything, he’s a great guy and he’s always there to pick me up when I’m down," Trout said.

And who knows, this Trout-Pujols pairing could be the force that, finally, leads the Angels out of this strange, early-season morass. Trout has been providing plenty of spark lately, but on Tuesday Pujols finally helped it turn into a fire. The two combined for six hits, three runs and three RBIs in the Angels' 4-0 win over the Oakland A's.

The fact that all of Pujols' hits barely bent the grass shouldn't detract from the concept. The Angels aren't going anywhere this season without production from the upper one-third of their lineup and, at long last, they saw some of it Tuesday, driven by two of the most talented players in the game. Trout's star is just beginning to ascend and Pujols' is showing signs of descending. They're both crucial beacons to the Angels, desperate for offense.

"Balls found some holes for once," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Tuesday's 12-hit game.

Pujols still doesn't look right, of course. He's lunging and hitting ball after ball to the left side of the infield. The only difference was that all three of them Tuesday were placed far enough from infielders that Pujols could lumber to first in time.

Trout, on the other hand, looks perfectly right. In his third trip to the major leagues, he looks like he's beginning to force his talent on the rest of the league. Trout has homered three times and stolen three bases in 15 games and is batting .333 in May.

"These are the things Mike does," Scioscia said.

If he keeps doing them and Pujols starts doing them with a measure of consistency, this team might be ready to -- yes, finally -- move forward.