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Apr 10, 2024 5:57 am

Mike Trout, Angels aim to claim series vs. Rays

Trout, Angels, Rays

Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout hit a home run on Tuesday, becoming the first player in club history to have six homers in the first 11 games of a season.

The Angels will hope for another power display — or perhaps some baserunning heroics — from Trout when they play the rubber match of a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday in Anaheim, Calif.

Los Angeles took the series opener 7-1 on Monday before Tampa Bay rebounded for a 6-4 victory on Tuesday.

Trout’s home run total was not the primary topic of conversation for Angels manager Ron Washington when he went to visit the slugger at his New Jersey home during the offseason. They discussed Trout’s baserunning.

Trout has two stolen bases so far this season. It may not seem like much, but that equals his total for all of 2023.

In fact, he had just one stolen base in 2022, two in 2021 and one in 2020. The numbers are significant considering he led the majors with 49 steals in 2012 and two other seasons of 30-plus.

His recent decline in stolen bases isn’t because he hasn’t been successful — he hasn’t been caught stealing since 2020.

Trout, however, did miss 39 games in 2017 when he tore a ligament in his left thumb with a head-first slide into second base on a stolen-base attempt.

“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. 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 emphasized that the focus on stolen bases was not his idea.

“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 and what he thought we can do to turn this around here,” Washington said. “That was the conversation. It wasn’t anything that I wanted. It was about everything he wanted.”

The Angels now want to see what right-hander Jose Soriano can do in the rotation. He will move from the bullpen to start on Wednesday, taking a rotation spot from Chase Silseth, who was placed on the injured list Monday because of right elbow inflammation.

Soriano (0-1, 4.50 ERA) has made two relief appearances this year, giving up three runs in six innings. He made three starts in spring training, but has never started a regular-season game in the majors. He has made three scoreless appearances covering three innings against Tampa Bay in his career.

Right-hander Zack Littell (1-0, 0.82) will make his third start of the season for the Rays. He allowed just one run in 11 innings over his two starts.

It’s been quite the journey for Littell, who began last season playing for the Rangers’ Triple-A team in Round Rock, Texas.

His contract was purchased by the Boston Red Sox last May, and he was designated for assignment less than a week later. The Rays took a chance on him, claimed him off waivers and put him in the bullpen, where he made eight appearances before moving to the rotation because of injuries to the staff.

As a starter, he went 3-5 with a 3.41 ERA in 14 outings, most impressively walking just five batters in 71 1/3 innings.

“When you’re filling up the zone like he does, you’re going to allow yourself opportunities for success, and we’ve seen that now time and time again,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.

Littell has faced the Angels just once in his career, when he threw one scoreless inning in a 2021 relief appearance.

–Field Level Media

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