Trout not holding back with this 2024 goal

April 8th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger's Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ANAHEIM -- One of the top priorities for Ron Washington when he was hired as the Angels' manager in early November was to connect with his players on a personal level in the offseason before heading to Spring Training.

So Washington reached out to all of the club’s players and even flew to New Jersey to meet with Angels superstar at his home. He wanted to get a sense for Trout’s expectations for the season and what he was looking to accomplish after a few injury-plagued seasons. The main message from Trout was that he wanted to be more aggressive this season, especially on the basepaths.

Trout stole 49 bases as a rookie in 2012 and 24 as recently as '18, but he stole a combined six bases in 290 games from '20-23, including just two last year. Trout already has two this season through nine games and has his eye on even more.

"I think 20-plus would be cool," Trout said. "Thirty would be really cool."

Washington said he was pleased to hear that coming from Trout during his visit to New Jersey and made sure to relay what Trout said to first-base coach Bo Porter and third-base coach Eric Young Sr., who are both considered experts at teaching baserunning and stealing.

“I didn't go out there and express what I wanted Mike to do, I went out there to find out what Mike wanted to do,” Washington said. “And what he thought we can do to turn this around here. That was the conversation. It wasn't anything that I wanted. It was about everything he wanted.”

Trout, 32, hasn't played more than 130 games in a season since 2019, as he was limited to 36 in '21 due to a right calf strain, 119 in '22 and 82 in '23. But his injury last season was a freak one to his left wrist that occurred on a swing and essentially ended his season on July 3, as he played in just one more game in late August before shutting it down.

But Trout said he otherwise felt the best he had in years last season, and he continued that into this year. It’s a reason why he decided it’s the right time to be aggressive again, as he said not stealing bases in recent years was his choice and not a mandate from the organization. Trout still has plenty of speed, as he ranks in the 96th percentile in Sprint Speed, per Statcast, and hasn’t been caught stealing since 2020.

"If you're out there holding back a little, I think sometimes it puts you in a worse position," Trout said. "I'm not saying that's what happened, but I feel like if I want to steal a base, I can steal a base.

“And Wash gave me the go-ahead," Trout said. “Looking back at the managers I had before, if I would’ve told them I wanted to steal some bags, I would have. They wouldn't have minded it. But it wasn't like a game plan we had before. So the last three, four years, it hasn't really worked. So I figured why not just go out there and whatever happens, happens."

Washington said he’s not worried about Trout injuring himself on a stolen base attempt and simply wants him to play free and without worrying about any injuries. Trout is off to a solid start overall this season, hitting .250/.351/.625 with four homers entering Monday, while also making a leaping catch against the wall to take away an extra-base hit from Jarren Duran in a critical moment to end the eighth on Saturday. He also homered and stole a base on Sunday, marking the first time he’d done both in a game since July 8, 2022.

“You can’t play the game concerned about [getting injured],” Washington said. "You get hurt when you try not to just let your natural ability play. If he sees an opportunity when he's on first base to steal second base, go for it. I don't want Mike stealing 50 bags, because I don't want him hitting the ground that much.

“But if Mike decides he wants to get 50 bags, he can get to 50 bags and I'm not going to stop him. I'm not concerned about him maybe hurting himself or anything like that, because when you think like that, that's what happens. He's thinking the other way. He's thinking positive."