2/22/2013 5:45 P.M. ET
Trumbo confident he'll find his place among stars
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- How much action will he get at first base? When will he play in one of the corner-outfield spots? How will he adjust to producing as a designated hitter?
These are the new questions that Mark Trumbo faces heading into the 2013 season.
But it just wouldn't feel like spring if there wasn't some level of uncertainty surrounding the Angels' menacing slugger.
"There hasn't been a year that I've had a completely defined role coming into Spring Training," Trumbo said. "Things have changed every year, as they did last year."
In 2012, the Angels had a crowded outfield, a recovering Kendrys Morales and a new first baseman in Albert Pujols, so Trumbo tried -- and struggled -- to learn third base while getting used to carrying an assortment of gloves in hopes of staying relevant. Heading into 2011, he wasn't even sure if he'd open up the season in the big leagues.
And through all the uncertainty, Trumbo has found a way to produce, compiling a .261/.305/.484 slash line with 61 homers and 182 RBIs in his first two seasons in the big leagues.
With a stacked outfield -- Mike Trout in left, Peter Bourjos in center, Josh Hamilton in right, Vernon Wells on the bench -- Trumbo figures to get the vast majority of his plate appearances at DH this year. But his versatility is critical to giving manager Mike Scioscia the flexibility to get Hamilton and Pujols off their feet when necessary.
"If I do DH, I'm happy with it," Trumbo said. "For me, it's getting at-bats. That's my strong suit -- contributing on offense. I work hard on my defense, too, but I think my offensive ability outweighs my defensive ability right now."
But there have been several cases when hitters have struggled to produce offensively when confined to DH, usually because they're too cold and stiff by the time they get to the batter's box.
Trumbo, a career .306/.372/.565 hitter in 94 plate appearances at DH, tries to counter that by simulating a half-inning on defense. A few minutes before his turn, he'll ride the elliptical or do some sprints in the hallway outside the dugout, trying to time it just right so he has a good sweat going when it's time to step into the on-deck circle.
"I have always noticed that I do better especially in the hot weather," Trumbo said, "so it kind of tells me I do better when I'm loose and as if I just came off an inning of running around and chasing balls and doing things like that. That's kind of what I look to do."
But there's a balance.
"I think a guy just has to keep his mind free," Scioscia said. "I think it's good for them to sit and watch the game. It's probably good for them not to spend every moment outside this batter's box in the cage. I think Mark has a grasp of that, and I think he'll be fine when he DH's."
Trumbo, only 27 and heading into his third full season in the Majors, is the forgotten man in an offense that should rival the best in baseball. He isn't a prodigy like Trout, nor does he boast the track record of Pujols and Hamilton. But when he's right, he can be a force from the No. 5 spot.
The Angels saw that in the first half last season, when Trumbo batted .306 with 22 homers just before putting on a show at the State Farm Home Run Derby.
Then they saw the other side, Trumbo going on a 56-game stretch in which he batted .187, homered only five times and struck out on 78 occasions.
"You're going to struggle at some point, whether it comes at the beginning of the year or in the middle -- a couple of hot weeks, a couple cold weeks," Trumbo said. "It just so happened that it was kind of back-loaded at the end there for me. I think I was most fortunate that I had a good couple weeks to end the season."
That was no small thing, either.
Trumbo emerged from his woeful slump as the year was drawing to a close, going 11-for-26 over his last six games. It didn't help the Angels make the playoffs, but it may have helped an analytical Trumbo heading into 2013.
"It reaffirmed that the talent's still there," he said. "The first year I got called up [in 2010], I got a hit in the last at-bat of the season. If I had gone into the next season without a hit, it wouldn't have killed my confidence, but it's nice to kind of go out on a high note, having that as your last feeling."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.