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Surgery aside, Trout says '19 is his best season

@RhettBollinger
September 25, 2019

ANAHEIM -- As Mike Trout opened the door to the press conference room at Angel Stadium on Wednesday, he couldn’t help but smile as he rode in on a scooter he found in the clubhouse to help him get around since undergoing surgery on his right foot. Trout said the

ANAHEIM -- As Mike Trout opened the door to the press conference room at Angel Stadium on Wednesday, he couldn’t help but smile as he rode in on a scooter he found in the clubhouse to help him get around since undergoing surgery on his right foot.

Trout said the operation went as expected, as the neuroma causing pain in his foot was removed and won’t give him trouble going forward. Trout will remain on crutches for a few more days as part of the six-week recovery period. And despite the fact his MVP-caliber season ended three weeks early, Trout was in good spirits.

"I think a couple more days on crutches. It's just a little bit easier to get around the clubhouse on the scooter," Trout said with a smile. "It feels good. It's obviously sore. I saw the doctor today. Everything was good. Glad I got it removed. Thing was pretty big. Looking at it, seeing what came out of my foot was kind of nasty."

Trout, 28, finished his ninth season with a slash line of .291/.438/.645 with 45 homers (a career high), 104 RBIs, 110 runs and 11 stolen bases in 134 games. He’s tied for the American League lead in home runs and also leads the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. His last appearance was on Sept. 7 while his last full game was on Sept. 5, as the nerve issue in his foot became too painful to play through. It bothered him for roughly a month before the surgery.

Trout, who has finished in the top two of balloting for AL MVP in six of the last seven seasons, believes this is the best season of his career.

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"Just offensively in the box, this is the best I've felt,” Trout said. “Just squaring up baseballs. Making adjustments quicker, and barreling up a lot more balls."

Trout is aware of the impact the injury could have on his MVP candidacy, as he aims to win the award for the third time in his career. Trout is still considered the front-runner, though Astros third baseman Alex Bregman has emerged as part of a two-man race.

"I follow baseball all the time -- I’m like a baseball nerd, I guess," Trout said. "I follow him. There are a lot of guys I follow. Bregman is a good dude. We are friends. He actually beat me at fantasy [football] last week. I’m happy for him. He’s having an unbelievable season. It’s always a battle when we go up against him."

Angels manager Brad Ausmus believes Trout has done enough to win the award, and said the timing of his injury is the only knock on him this year. Trout still leads Bregman in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), according to both FanGraphs (8.6 to 7.9) and Baseball-Reference (8.3 to 8.0).

“If Trout missed the first three weeks of the season, we wouldn't even be having this conversation,” Ausmus said. “But because it's the last three weeks, there's a discussion. Either way, it's three weeks missed and he's the best player in the game."

Adding to the impressiveness of Trout’s season was how he had to deal with the passing of teammate Tyler Skaggs while the club was on the road in Texas on July 1. Trout and Skaggs were both drafted by the Angels in 2009 and were close friends. Trout took on the role of leader for his teammates as they were faced with tragedy.

“I think Tyler would want that,” Trout said. “The team needed it. We were going through something that I wouldn't wish on anybody. We were going through some tough times, and I felt like the team needed it and needed that guy to come out there and talk."

Trout admitted that it was emotionally draining for the Angels. They initially played well after his passing, including their incredible combined no-hitter against the Mariners on July 13 after Skaggs’ mother, Debbie, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. But they’ve struggled since late July and will finish with a losing record for a fourth-straight season -- the club still has only made the postseason once in Trout’s career (2014).

Trout, though, still believes the organization is heading in the right direction, echoing his comments from when he signed his 12-year, $426.5 million contract extension before the start of the season. The Angels have an important offseason upcoming under general manager Billy Eppler, who has one year remaining on his contract. Acquiring pitching will be the top priority for the club and Trout is excited to see what the future brings.

"We have a lot of guys coming back," Trout said. "I’m sure Billy and the front office are going to do a good job to bring new guys in and go from there. They’re always trying to make the team better and improve the team."

Trout also gave a vote of confidence for Ausmus, who is finishing his first season as Halos manager. The Athletic reported on Wednesday that the Angels would be interested in Joe Maddon if the Cubs decided to part ways with the former Angels coach. Ausmus remains under contract through the 2021 season.

“I love playing for Brad,” Trout said. “This is not the way we wanted it to end up, being out of it, but the coaching staff has been great.”

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.