Mike Trout’s ears were still ringing from the roar of the crowd at LoanDepot Park when, on the bus back to the Team USA hotel in Miami after the final strikeout of the World Baseball Classic on Tuesday night, he sent a text message to Angels manager Phil. Nevin
“I told him, ‘I needed this, I needed to play in this atmosphere, I needed to live it and be in the moment,'” Trout said Sunday night before the Freeway Series exhibition opener against the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine. “It made me think how bad we want to get back to the playoffs.”
The WBC didn’t end the way Trout had hoped, as the three-time American League Most Valuable Player lost an epic battle against Angels teammate Shohei Ohtani, a Trout swinging Japan win 3-2 to close out the tournament. .
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But if there was one thing Trout’s WBC experience strengthened, it was his desire to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014, when Kansas City swept the Angels in a three-game sweep. The Trout-led Angels have suffered seven straight losing seasons, even with Ohtani in the last five.
“To fall short of the playoffs,” Trout said, “is disappointing.”
The WBC gave Trout and several Angels teammates — Ohtani, pitcher Patrick Sandoval and reliever José Quijada, to name a few — a taste of what the atmosphere would be like in October.
“It was probably the coolest experience I’ve ever had on a baseball field,” Trout said. “That’s the atmosphere you want to play in, whether as a baseball fan or a competitor. You want to be in that moment. They were just special days.”
Even the predictable finish was a little rough for Trout, who ran through a pair of triple fastballs for a full count from Ohtani before blasting an 87 mph slider off the plate. In 6,174 career plate appearances, Trout has crossed three strikes just 24 times, according to Codify Baseball.
“It was a fun one-on-one,” Trout said. “I had one thing in mind, trying to throw a ball. Of course, with Shohei, he has all his pitches, and he’s moving everything. And you know, it didn’t throw a split on me all of a sudden. He was in my head, and then he threw me a nasty 3-on-2 slider.’
Trout and Ohtani faced off for the first time since playing in the visitors’ clubhouse at Dodger Stadium on Sunday afternoon. There was no trash talking. Or awkward silence.
Angels teammates Shohei Ohtani, left, and running back Mike Trout in September against the Detroit Tigers.
(Ringo HW Chiu/Associated Press)
“I gave him a hug,” Trout said. “He was good. I’m glad he’s in my team. He’s a special talent. He’s got great stuff.”
The Angels have beefed up their lineup and added depth with the additions of Hunter Renfroe, Brandon Drury and Gio Urshela, and corner infielders Anthony Rendon and Jared Walsh are healthy. They added All-Star lefty Tyler Anderson to the rotation and Carlos Estévez who can be the closer to the bullpen. And they still have two of the best players in baseball in Ohtani and Trout.
“I get asked the question all the time, is this the year?” said Nevin. “I think you have a list like ours and you have expectations in our room like we do, every day is an urgency. If we don’t have it, I think you’re doing an injustice to the teammates, the fans, the organization.”