DH Mark Trumbo tackles new challenge with Angels
(Eds: Updates with quotes, details. With AP Photos.)
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
TEMPE, Ariz. -- For an imposing slugger with 61 homers in his first two major league seasons and fairly limitless potential, Mark Trumbo sure gets moved around a lot.
After stints as a solid first baseman, a less-than-solid third baseman and a thoroughly competent outfielder, Trumbo is heading into his third full season with the Los Angeles Angels primarily as a designated hitter.
The Angels' free-agent spending sprees on Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are to blame for Trumbo's transience, yet the power hitter who plays for his hometown team doesn't seem terribly irritated by his now-annual moves around the diamond.
"It's kind of the way it's always been," Trumbo said Thursday at the Angels' spring training complex. "I think everyone would like to have a set position, but as the numbers shake out and the quality of the team we have, sometimes certain guys are better fits at certain spots. I just keep going and keep working."
The Angels are grateful Trumbo is amenable to the positions switches they've forced on him. He became an All-Star last season, yet he also carries the humility of a player who had turned 25 before he became a major league regular.
"His versatility is important because he (allows) us to keep a big bat in the lineup that we want to," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We explored third base last year, and that obviously didn't pan out, but his ability to play corner outfield, first base and also DH is going to get him at-bats. It's important because we can use the DH in a way to get other guys moving around and get them off their feet a little bit."
Trumbo is already addressing the potential pitfalls of life as a designated hitter, speaking with Scioscia and his staff about ways to stay involved while he's on the bench -- and also what not to do, including over-analysis of video or too much work in the batting cage between at-bats.
"It might be a tad tougher to stay in the rhythm of the game if you're not out there playing defense," Trumbo said. "We're just trying to find a routine that works. It'll be trial-and-error a little bit at first, but we came up with some decent strategies last year so we're better prepared for this year."
Trumbo began his short major league career at first base in 2011, where he immediately filled the hole left by injured Kendrys Morales. He finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting to Tampa Bay's Jeremy Hellickson with 29 homers and 87 RBIs.
Not much besides the best first baseman of his generation could have moved Trumbo -- but that's exactly what the Angels had after Pujols got a 10-year, $240 million deal from owner Arte Moreno.
Trumbo tried third base the following spring, hoping to fill an obvious weak spot in the Angels' lineup with his big bat. He made four errors in eight regular-season games before Scioscia's patience evaporated -- so the Angels put Trumbo into a roving role that kept him primarily in the outfield.
He started 66 games in left field, 31 games in right, 16 at first base and 22 as a designated hitter, giving plenty of flexibility to Scioscia. Trumbo made his first All-Star team and finished with 32 homers and 95 RBIs despite a prolonged slump down the stretch.
He expected to be in the outfield again this season after free agent Torii Hunter left for Detroit. General manager Jerry Dipoto projected him as the right fielder alongside Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos -- and then Moreno signed Hamilton, giving the outfielder and former MVP a five-year, $125 million deal.
Trumbo was on the move again -- but with Morales' departure in a trade, he'll be the Angels' new designated hitter most of the time. He's also keeping his glove handy, anticipating he'll get plenty of spot work in the field even if everybody stays healthy.
He's focused on the positive aspects of his new job, particularly as the No. 5 hitter behind Trout, Pujols and Hamilton in one of the majors' most potent lineups. He's confident he has recaptured his swing after a .213 slump in roughly the final two months of the regular season.
"I just got into some bad habits," Trumbo said. "It's tough to maintain a swing -- any kind of swing, golf swing, baseball swing -- for that long. I think my approach was OK, but the worse you do, the more you try to do, and that's going to work in reverse, too. I feel great now, and I finished out the last couple of weeks of the season good, so I'm good to go."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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