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Mike Trout makes his debut for the Angels at 19

Considered their top prospect, Trout probably will be sent back to the minors when Peter Bourjos is able to play. He goes 0 for 3, but makes a fine running catch in the Angels' victory over Mariners.

July 08, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels rookie Mike Trout became the youngest player in the majors when he made his debut at age 19 on Friday night at Angel Stadium.
Angels rookie Mike Trout became the youngest player in the majors when he… (Victor Decolongon / Getty…)

Mike Trout had to bow out of Sunday's Futures game, the annual midsummer showcase for baseball's top prospects. The future, it turned out, arrived much sooner than the highly touted Trout could have imagined.

The Angels called up Trout from double A late Thursday night, and the 19-year-old center fielder, who two years ago was playing high school ball in New Jersey, made his big league debut Friday night, going 0 for 3 in a 4-3 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

Trout, named the top prospect in all of baseball by several websites last winter, was asleep in his Little Rock, Ark., apartment when he got a 1 a.m. call from General Manager Tony Reagins.

"I was mumbling the whole time; I was practically speechless," Trout said. "I got the chills. I was almost in tears. Getting the opportunity to play with the big league club … I'm very excited."

He shouldn't get too comfortable here for now. Manager Mike Scioscia made it clear Friday that center fielder Peter Bourjos, who suffered a slight right hamstring strain Thursday night and will be sidelined through the All-Star break, will not lose his job to injury.

"It's his job when he's healthy," Scioscia said of Bourjos, who is hitting .341 (31 for 91) since June 1 and has been a game-changer on defense all season.

What if Trout goes on a tear?

"Peter is our center fielder," Scioscia said. "He's playing a better defensive center field than anyone in our league. We're going to get him back in there."

Trout, who turns 20 on Aug. 7, has Bourjos' blazing speed but is built like an NFL running back, a solid 6 feet 1 and 220 pounds. His hitting eye and grasp of the game are very advanced, and some scouts have compared him to a young Mickey Mantle. He looked a little like Bourjos in the top of the ninth, saving and extra-base hit by running down Franklin Gutierrez's drive at the wall.

The 25th overall pick in the 2009 draft, Trout hit .324 with a .415 on-base percentage, nine homers, 11 triples, 12 doubles, 27 runs batted in, 69 runs and 28 stolen bases in 75 games at Arkansas.

At 19 years, 335 days, Trout is the youngest player in the big leagues and the youngest to debut for the Angels since pitcher Andy Hassler (19 years, 224 days) in 1971.

"I thought he'd be 20 by now," said Bourjos, who, at 24, is considered a fresh young face on the club. "Nineteen? Are you kidding me? That's unbelievable. I was at [rookie-league] Orem when I was 19."

Trout, who flied out twice and grounded out, seemed in line for a promotion to triple A this month and a September call-up to the Angels, but when Bourjos got hurt, the Angels saw Trout as a more dynamic option than triple-A outfielder Reggie Willits.

"Right now, he's the best fit to bring us that presence in center field, and we'll see what he can do on offense," Scioscia said. "I don't know if he'll be here long, but it's important for a young player to see what that monster of the big leagues is about."

Angels fans clamored for Trout in May after left fielder Vernon Wells suffered a groin strain, but Scioscia didn't think he was ready.

"Maybe in a month, this would be a different conversation," Scioscia said. "But right now, there's some growth he needs."

Reagins saw that growth when he watched Trout in June.

"It was the overall way he carried himself before, during and after games," Reagins said. "Each at-bat was as professional as the next. He did a great job on defense. We felt comfortable that he could play here very shortly."

With so much hype comes much expectation, but Reagins just wants Trout to relax and play hard.

"We expect him to be Mike Trout," Reagins said. "Not try to save the franchise, not try to do anything extraordinary, just have fun. His ability will take care of itself."

Right fielder Torii Hunter warned fans not to expect too much too soon.

"This guy is coming from double A to the major leagues — you're talking about those lights, the extra 30,000 fans, the media, everybody's watching," Hunter said. "Once he gets over all that, he's going to settle in just fine."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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