DETROIT -- Angels superstar Mike Trout is back.
Trout, who had been out since July 12 with an upper back/left rib cage injury, was activated from the injured list before Friday’s series opener against the Tigers, starting in center field and hitting second in the lineup behind two-way star Shohei Ohtani. To make room, outfielder Steven Duggar was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake after Wednesday's game.
“He was really good,” said interim manager Phil Nevin. “He just missed a triple by like an inch there [in the ninth]. He smoked a ball to left there. They made some good pitches late. The last slider backed up on him in the zone. That’s a guy who hasn’t seen live pitching in a month outside of facing some of our Minor Leaguers the other day. So, it was just good seeing him in there again.”
“It’s good to be back, I feel good,” Trout said. “It’s always important to be on the field with the guys. You go through August and it’s a grind. Those guys are out there playing hard and it was one of my goals to get back as soon as possible.”
Trout faced live pitching on Monday after taking batting practice on the field over the weekend. He had a scheduled day off on Tuesday and had said that if everything went well with his workout on Wednesday, he would be activated. He said he didn’t feel like he needed a rehab assignment.
“I took some live the other day and felt really good,” Trout said. “I hit some balls hard and felt really good. I based it off [that]. They gave me the option, and if I didn’t feel right, I would’ve done the rehab. But I felt good, and we have about 45 games left, so I wanted to be back out there with the guys.”
Trout, a three-time American League MVP and 10-time All-Star, admitted it’s been tough to deal with another injury this season. He sustained a season-ending calf strain in mid-May last season, but he's relieved that his back injury won’t end his season this year. Trout's official diagnosis was a costovertebral dysfunction at T5 in his spine, but he said he's feeling 100% after his treatment.
“You don’t want to duplicate what happened last year,” Trout said. “It was physically and mentally tough on me. But I’m happy to be back and I just have to stay on top of it.”
Head athletic trainer Mike Frostad said on July 27 that it could be an injury Trout has to monitor throughout his career, but Trout received better news after meeting with noted spine specialist Dr. Robert Watkins a few days later. The injury is rare for baseball players, but happens more often to swimmers, and can fully heal with rest and treatment. Trout said it’s something he’ll continue to monitor this season but plans to play every day.
“That’s the plan, I’m going to play when it feels right,” Trout said. “But I have no worries. I feel great right now.”
Nevin said he plans to talk with Trout before each game to make sure he’s feeling good enough to play. Trout said his pregame routine has been altered to add more rotational and core exercises but it only adds about 15 minutes more to his usual routine.
“We’re going to monitor it every day,” Nevin said. "We’ll talk every day. If he says [he can], I’d love to have him in the lineup every day.”
Trout, 31, was batting .270/.368/.599 with 24 homers and 51 RBIs in 79 games before being placed on the injured list on July 18. He played through the injury for a week before ultimately being placed on the IL. He said he believes he might’ve sustained the injury while taking too much batting practice to get himself out of a rare slump.
“It’s been a crazy year at the plate for me, for sure,” Trout said. “I went through that rough stretch. I did a lot more swinging than I usually do. And I don’t know if that had something to do with my back, but it was the first time in my career I went through a stretch like that. So it was just about getting back to how I feel when it’s going right at the plate. But the rehab process went great.”