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Trumbo has a chance to quiet skeptics

BASEBALL : ANGELS SPRING REPORT

Trumbo hit 36 homers and drove in 122 runs with triple-A Salt Lake last season, and he is off to a fast start this spring.

March 07, 2011|Kevin Baxter

TEMPE, ARIZ. — Mark Trumbo bristles a bit when critics look at the phenomenal numbers he put up last season, then say, "Yeah, but "

As in, "Yeah, he led the minors with 36 homers, but he was playing at altitude." Or, "Yeah, he led the league in runs scored and runs batted in, but can he field?"

"I think I've pieced together a number of good seasons in a row. Most people probably don't know that. And that's fine," Trumbo said. "But I think I've steadily improved every year. So I don't think it's a one-hit wonder."

But don't take his word for it -- look at the numbers. Despite going hitless Sunday in the Angels' Cactus League win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, Trumbo is leading the team in home runs (two), runs batted in (four), total bases (13) and slugging percentage (.650).

"Mark has shown himself very well in virtually every aspect," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Any drill he's been in. He's showing the athleticism to play first base the way we needed it played. Obviously [he's] swinging the bat."

One reason Trumbo is having such a productive spring: He is getting an extended opportunity to do just that. With regular first baseman Kendry Morales slow in coming back from the broken ankle he sustained last spring, Trumbo has played in all but one of the Angels' nine exhibition games. And his 20 at-bats this spring are 11 shy of the number he had the previous two springs combined.

"I think my focus went up [because] I definitely understood that I had maybe a better opportunity," Trumbo said.

Yet it is an opportunity he earned. A high school All-American at Villa Park, little more than a Trumbo-sized home run from Angel Stadium, he averaged 17 home runs through his first five minor league seasons before breaking out with a 36-homer, 122-RBI campaign last summer.

He struck out in eight of his 15 at-bats as a September call-up last season, but given a chance to play regularly again in winter ball he rebounded nicely, hitting .336 with five homers and 21 RBIs in 28 games in Venezuela.

Whether Trumbo starts the season with the Angels or goes back to triple-A Salt Lake, however, is out of his hands. If Morales can play by the end of the month, the coaching staff figures to send Trumbo back to the minors.

If not, Trumbo could be at first base on opening day. And if he has proved anything this spring, it is that if you give him an opportunity, don't be surprised when he seizes it.

"Wherever the cards are going to fall in the spring, I don't know. I don't control that. I just control what I can do," he said. "If I have a good showing, then it's going to put some pressure on [the coaches]. I just have to do the best I can."

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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