An­gels face devil of a time with­out Trout

Play­ers will have to ‘pick up the slack’ as team’s star re­cov­ers from thumb in­jury.

Los Angeles Times - - BASEBALL - By Mike DiGio­vanna mike.digio­vanna@la­times.com Twit­ter: @MikeDiGio­vanna

The An­gels thrived in the wake of a sea­son-end­ing knee in­jury to Gar­rett Richards in 2014, go­ing 21-7 over the next month with­out their ace and turn­ing a halfgame lead in the Amer­i­can League West on Aug. 20 into a di­vi­sion-clinch­ing 111⁄2game bulge by Sept. 18.

So it was nat­u­ral to use that as a ral­ly­ing cry this week when star cen­ter fielder Mike Trout, con­sid­ered the best all-around player in base­ball, suf­fered a torn left-thumb lig­a­ment that was sur­gi­cally re­paired on Wed­nes­day and will side­line him for six to eight weeks.

“When Gar­rett went down in 2014, that was a big blow to our pitch­ing staff, but ev­ery­one pulled to­gether, and we fin­ished up pretty strong,” right fielder Kole Cal­houn said. “Not hav­ing Mike, things are def­i­nitely stacked against us, but we have a lot of guys in here, and if we play to­gether we can still be pretty good.”

Not to say that won’t hap­pen. The team has hov­ered around .500 de­spite los­ing its top two start­ing pitch­ers (Richards and An­drew Heaney) and top three re­liev­ers (Cam Be­drosian, Hus­ton Street and An­drew Bai­ley) to in­jury.

But the loss of Trout will be much more dif­fi­cult to over­come than the loss of Richards in 2014.

For starters, Richards pitched once ev­ery five days. Trout played ev­ery day, im­pact­ing games with his bat, speed on the bases and stel­lar de­fense.

The An­gels had four solid starters in 2014 in Jered Weaver, Matt Shoe­maker, C.J. Wilson and Hec­tor San­ti­ago, a deep bullpen headed by Street and Joe Smith, and a po­tent of­fense that eased the bur­den on the pitch­ing staff.

“To have Mike on the dis­abled list for the first time is kind of the un­known,” Cal­houn said. “It’s def­i­nitely tough. He’s best player in the game, so guys are gonna have to pick up the slack around here.”

Man­ager Mike Scios­cia com­pared Trout’s loss to that of slug­ger Vladimir Guer­rero, who in 2009 missed six weeks from midApril to late-May be­cause of a torn pec­toral mus­cle, and a month from early July to early Au­gust be­cause of a ham­string strain.

The An­gels never fell more than 51⁄2 games back dur­ing Guer­rero’s first ab­sence. They moved into first place in late June and won the di­vi­sion with a 97-64 record.

“We had a very good year with a mid­dle-of-the-or­der guy out for long stretches,” Scios­cia said. “Mike’s loss is not gonna be made up with pro­duc­tion from one per­son, but col­lec­tively, one through nine. If guys swing the bats to their ca­pa­bil­i­ties, we can ab­sorb the loss of Mike for the time he’s out.”

Guer­rero, how­ever, was 34 and near the end of his dis­tin­guished ca­reer in 2009. He was also sur­rounded by pro­duc­tive hit­ters in a lineup that in­cluded Kendrys Mo­rales, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, Howie Ken­drick, Mike Napoli, Juan Rivera, Erick Ay­bar and Chone Fig­gins.

Trout is 25 and in his prime. He has won two AL most valu­able player awards and was run­ner-up three times. He is ar­guably hav­ing his best sea­son, bat­ting .337 with an AL-lead­ing 1.203 on­base-plus-slug­ging per­cent­age. He ranks sec­ond with 16 homers and has 36 RBIs.

And he is sur­rounded by play­ers who are strug­gling. Sec­ond base­man Danny Espinosa has been a huge dis­ap­point­ment, bat­ting .144 with 56 strike­outs en­ter­ing Wed­nes­day, and cor­ner in­fielder Luis Val­buena, ex­pected to be a mid­dle-of-the­o­rder threat, is bat­ting .176 in 26 games of an in­jury plagued sea­son.

The strug­gles of Cal­houn, who hit .266 with a .763 OPS, 61 homers and 216 RBIs in his first three full ma­jor league sea­sons (2014-2016), have been most sur­pris­ing. He en­tered Wed­nes­day with a .205 av­er­age, .601 OPS, five homers and 17 RBIs in 52 games.

“There’s a cliche about see­ing the ball well, a lot of guys throw that around, but I think in Kole’s case, there’s no doubt that he’s a lit­tle jumpy, he’s just try­ing too hard,” Scios­cia said. “He def­i­nitely needs to ex­hale and have things slow down in the bat­ter’s box.”

The left-handed-hit­ting Cal­houn nor­mally hits left­handers well. He has a ca­reer .266 av­er­age and .761 OPS against right-han­ders and a .245 av­er­age and .713 OPS against left-han­ders. Those num­bers are out of whack this sea­son — .233 with a .655 OPS against right-han­ders and .098 with a .391 OPS against lefties.

“He’s work­ing very hard on it,” Scios­cia said. “This guy is such a gamer. He does any­thing for the team, whether it’s div­ing for a ball in right field, pulling for guys, hit­ting first, sec­ond, sixth in lineup … for him to strug­gle, there’s no­body who feels it more than he does.

“He’s too tal­ented to stay down for a long time. He’ll find it. Right now, it’s a mat­ter of slow­ing some things down in the bat­ter’s box, tak­ing some of the things pitch­ers are giv­ing him and try­ing to use the whole field. If he does that, I think he’ll start to swing the bat to his ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

Robert Gau­thier Los An­ge­les Times

WITH A HEAV­ILY ban­daged hand, Mike Trout watches Wed­nes­day’s An­gels game from the dugout.

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