Trout gets positive feedback from spine specialist

July 31st, 2022

ANAHEIM -- Angels outfielder Mike Trout reported good news about his back injury on Sunday, as he met with noted spine specialist Dr. Robert Watkins this past Thursday and is slated to start rotational exercises on Wednesday with the intention of swinging a bat soon after.

It’s a positive turn of events for Trout, who dealt with a whirlwind this past Wednesday, when head athletic trainer Mike Frostad said it’s an injury Trout might have to monitor throughout his career. Trout said the injury, which is a costovertebral dysfunction at T5 in his back, has essentially healed, as he no longer feels discomfort. Trout, speaking before Sunday’s series finale against the Rangers, said there’s no timetable for his return, but that he’s confident he’ll play again this season.

"It went from my career is over to hopefully I'm going to play soon,” Trout said with a smile. “But it's just one of those things. It's scary. A back injury for a baseball player. You go through stuff. I get it. But you like hearing news from a doctor who knows what he's talking about, and Watkins is one of the best."

Trout, a three-time AL MVP Award winner and 10-time All-Star, has been out since July 12 with what was described as upper back spasms and left rib cage irritation. He said he’s done core exercises and some jogging, but the next big step will be the rotational exercises. Once he can rotate without any issues, he’ll be cleared for baseball activities.

“I'm doing a lot of like a core program, just to strike it up, all the muscles around the area,” Trout said. “It feels really good. So just progressing every day. It's basically building up the strength around it. Just keeping the same routine before games. It's pretty much gone right now. It's pretty promising."

Trout, 30, downplayed the long-term effect of the injury, as he doesn’t think it’s something that will bother him after this season. It’s a rare injury for baseball players, but other athletes (such as swimmers) deal with it and make full recoveries without needing surgery. But Trout said it’s something they’ll continue to monitor throughout the year.

"I think that's what Frosty was initially getting at,” Trout said. “Keeping a routine so that it doesn't come back. Once you let it settle down, get the inflammation out of there and build the muscles up around, it'll be good."

Trout, though, said he still hasn’t figured out how he sustained the injury. He said he initially started to feel it in early July, during the club's series in Miami from July 5-6. He had been slumping offensively and was doing extra work to get his swing right, and he believes overwork could've been the culprit.

“I couldn't pinpoint how it happened,” Trout said. “I think it happened over time. I was swinging more than I usually do. It just flared up. I couldn't tell you exactly. As a baseball player, you swing a lot and do a lot of activity, and sometimes, things act up."

Despite his slump leading up to the injury and a higher strikeout rate than usual, Trout is having another strong year, batting .270/.368/.599 with a team-leading 24 homers in 79 games. He was voted in as an All-Star by the fans for the ninth time, but he missed the Midsummer Classic because of his injury.

Trout's 2021 season ended early because of a right calf strain that limited him to 36 games, and he also ended '19 on the injured list because of a nerve issue in his right foot. But Trout is determined to return this season and finish the year healthy.

“He was excited when he met with the [doctor] and we came in and talked about how he’s excited with how he feels and the progression he’s gone through,” Halos interim manager Phil Nevin said. “It’s definitely encouraging news. Just getting him ramped up, we’re anxious for that. But I don’t anticipate any problems.”