BALTIMORE Mike Trout woke up Friday morning a major league baseball player.
In his 10th game since his call-up, Trout played Friday night flanked by a combination of 12 Gold Gloves, two Silver Slugger awards and a total of 26 years of big-league experience in Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells.
But before Trout could hit the clubhouse, talk to reporters pregame and take batting practice, he needed to complete the simple task of getting to the ballpark just showing up for work.
So how did the starting centerfielder for the Angels a franchise that has won four AL West division crowns since 2005 arrive at Camden Yards Friday afternoon?
Well, he asked his parents for a ride. A small reminder that hes still a kid.
Trout, just 19 years old, made his major league debut ahead of schedule on July 8, when he was called up after Bourjos a budding, young standout in his own right pulled his right hamstring rounding second base a day before. The consensus is that Trouts stay isnt a permanent one.
Bourjos is scheduled to come off the 15-day disabled list on Saturday, and whether Trout would remain with the club was uncertain. Prior to Fridays game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said a decision would come following the game.
So Trout set about Friday with a whole lot of uncertainty, but it wasnt going to change the tenor of the evening. This was going to be a special one for Mike Trout.
Since making his debut in Anaheim, Trout hadnt gotten out of California, playing six home games and making his first career road trip to Oakland last week. Including Fridays series opener against the Orioles, Trout had played in 85 games as a pro in 2011, with 75 of those coming in the minors.
For Trout, who grew up about 111 miles from Baltimore in South Jersey and attended Millville High School, this was closest hes played to home since being drafted 25th overall by the Angels in 2009. Of the 24,823 in attendance Friday at Camden Yards, Trout estimated 200 of them made the trip down I-95 from Millville.
Im just happy theyre here, Trout said.
Trout has spent most of this summer with the Arkansas Travelers in Double A, where hes played the vast majority of his games in the Texas League since being drafted. Since then, Trout has impressed just about everyone in baseball. His numbers this season bear it: He batted .324, belted nine home runs, had 27 RBIs, 28 stolen bases, 12 doubles, 11 triples and was slugging .534 for the Travelers.
Such figured have given him the type of reputation that have many onlookers calling him one of the top prospects in all of baseball, alongside Bryce Harper.
Since joining the Angels, the numbers are far more modest, but no one is holding that against him. Sure, hes batting .176 with six hits, two RBIs and eight strikeouts in 34 at-bats. But hes played a solid centerfield, exhibited uncanny speed, and has impressed his coaches.
Theres a learning curve that a young player goes through, hes going through getting a little taste of this earlier than some people might think, Scioscia said, but hes responded very well, particularly on the defensive end, which is a piece that we need right now.
Trout wasnt called up in early July because the Angels wanted to test him out. It was a simple case of the starting centerfielder going down and the club looking to its second-best option within the organization to fill the void. The team is aware that Trout is still green and could use more time in the minors. But at 19, hes still the most practical fill-in for an everyday big-leaguer who is sidelined with a routine injury. Thats saying a lot.
Hes played much better than the statistics indicate, Scioscia said. Hes hit a lot of balls hard, hes done some things in centerfield that arent going to show up in a box score. Hell take away something from this experience thats going to give him an idea, a Litmus test on what the major leagues are about. It will make him a better player in the future.
Key phrase: in the future.
Experience is going be the best teacher, Scioscia went on. So, with Mike, he needs to play. He needs to play steady enough to make the adjustments, which might not happen right now, but certainly in the near future hes going to plow through anything the minor leagues are going to give him and get an opportunity to play every day in the big leagues.
The future was on hold for the two hours, 49 minutes it took for the Angels to win a baseball game Friday night. Trout started in center, as he had nine times since his call-up. He batted eighth in the lineup. He smacked a single in his first at-bat. In the seventh inning, he laced a stand-up double in the right-center gap. It made for his first career multi-hit game in the bigs.
Such performances have caught the eye of his veteran teammates. Hunter, who was drafted 20th overall by the Minnesota Twins in 1993 and didnt begin playing every day in the majors until 1999 (Trout turned eight years old that year) sees a maturity in Trout that he admits he didnt have at his age.
He cites the type of qualities that helped Trout cracked two sound hits Friday night.
He has good awareness at the plate, knows the strike zone. I remember when I was 19, I was swinging at everything, thought I could hit everything, Hunter said. But he waits for his pitch. He still has a lot of room to grow, but hes ahead of most 19-year-olds in the country.
Hes well ahead of most 19-year-olds who are playing this game, said Wells, who himself owns three Gold Gloves since making his big-league debut in 2002 after being drafted fifth overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in 99.
A defensive savant who won nine Gold Gloves in centerfield, though now plays in right, Hunter thinks Trout still needs to improve in the field taking more efficient routes to the ball to complement his speed, which is his prime asset.
In centerfield, you have to be aggressive, Hunter said. Hes a lot better in the last four, five games. Hes been going after the ball. At first he was letting them drop because he has a Gold Glover on his left and a Gold Glover on his right. He was timid. I said, Man, you call that. Youre the centerfielder.
At 6-foot-1 and a lean 200 pounds, Trout has the physical tools to play at the highest level. But what seems to set him apart at this stage is his mentality. He said that the only difference between Double A and the majors is there are a lot of people watching now. He acknowledges the importance of gaining familiarity with top-tier pitchers and how could he not? recognizes the unique opportunity to play between such accomplished outfielders as Hunter and Wells.
Anything I need, any questions, Trout said, I go up to them.
Scioscia sees it.
These kids that get on your depth chart at a very young age there has to be an internal device in them that youre sure is going to help them to take on the challenge, the manager said. And Mike has that. If something doesnt work out, hes shown, and even in the minor leagues, a great skill of just turning the page. Thats something that a lot of guys have to learn in the big leagues and hes already acquired.
So Trouts numbers to date may be underwhelming. But 11 games is a small sample size, hardly enough to fully gauge his capabilities at the big-league level. He appears relaxed, is glad to take advice and grow.
Friday was a milestone game for Trout in several small ways. First, theres that first multi-hit game to consider. He reached base three times and stole his first career base. He scored two runs, the latter coming off a Wells grand slam in the ninth, which sealed the Angels' 6-1 victory.
Trout began the game batting .133, but by the end of the balmy, 104-degree night had raised his average 43 points after going 2 for 4.
Im glad theyre giving me an opportunity, Trout said. My goal is to come up here in the big leagues and make an impact.
It was his best statistical game of this short major-league stint, but there was still the question of whether it would be his final game with the big club before what seems like his inevitable return to Double A if for no other reason than to grow up a bit.
Bourjos, 24, ran the bases without any trouble in a workout Friday and will start in center for the Angels on Saturday night, said Scioscia. No matter how well Trout has played, Bourjos who was drafted 313th overall in the 10th round by the club in 2005 already has a reputation as a dynamic defensive player. If healthy, hes the guy for the Angels.
But after a nice shower and before a reunion with family and friends, Trout received some welcomed news in the Angels clubhouse after his big night. He will remain with the team, albeit on a day-to-day basis, Scioscia said, for now.
You never know how long of a look you get right now, Scioscia said of Trout after the game, but hes definitely getting more comfortable and making the most of it. Were excited about him.
Alexi Amarista, a second baseman who has spent 20 games with the Angels, will be sent down to the minors instead. Trout will continue on in a reserve role, the portrait of his major league career still being sketched. Still, Friday night in front of a couple hundred family and friends, Trout showed a glimpse of why he may one day soon be fighting for a permanent spot on the major league roster.
Thats the future, Hunter said of Trout. Hes going to be somewhere starting, whether its left, right or center. I definitely see this guy have a bright future. Hes put together to be 19.
Wait until he gets his man muscles.
E-mail Evan Burgos at email@example.com