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Angels youngsters are coming of age

Center fielder Peter Bourjos, 24, and first baseman Mark Trumbo, 25, have hit well this spring and not overmatched, as they were after call-ups from the minors last season.

March 27, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Peter Bourjos hits a two-run triple to center Sunday against the San Diego Padres.
Peter Bourjos hits a two-run triple to center Sunday against the San Diego… (Alex Gallardo / Associated…)

An Angels offense that in some areas is long in the tooth — designated hitter Bobby Abreu is 37 and right fielder Torii Hunter is 35 — could benefit from an injection of youth.

When the Angels open the season in Kansas City on Thursday, 24-year-old Peter Bourjos will be in center field and 25-year-old Mark Trumbo will probably be at first base, filling in for the injured Kendrys Morales.

Between them, the two have played in 59 big league games, 51 for Bourjos and eight for Trumbo.

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But if the Angels' 9-2 exhibition victory over the San Diego Padres on Sunday in Angel Stadium is any indication, the kids seem poised to make significant contributions.

Trumbo, a former Villa Park High standout, hit a run-scoring double to center field in the fourth inning and crushed a three-run home run, his sixth of the spring, to center in the fifth.

Bourjos, already touted as one of the best defensive center fielders in the game, hit a two-run triple in the second and reached on a bunt single and scored in the fourth to lift his spring average to .373 in 22 games.

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"It's been exciting to watch those guys," said Angels right-hander Dan Haren, who gave up one run and three hits in five innings. "Coming to spring training, center field was Peter's job to lose, and he just took it right over. He's made a great impression.

"With Kendrys out, Mark is swinging the bat well. The thing I like about both is they're smart. They go about their business the right way. They get it. Some guys come up with the wrong attitude. They've definitely got their heads on straight."

Both of their heads were spinning last season. Bourjos played great defensively after his Aug. 3 promotion from triple A but looked overmatched at the plate, hitting .204 with some power (six homers, six doubles, four triples). He struck out 40 times in 181 at-bats.

But Bourjos seems a lot less wide-eyed this spring.

"The first game of spring training, I was standing in center field, and I was relaxed," Bourjos said. "I've never felt that way in the big leagues. I've always been nervous, kind of anxious, but this spring, I'm relaxed, and it's carried over into the batter's box.

"I think the two months here last year really helped. I'm more confident, and I'm starting to feel like I belong. Last year, I wasn't sure I did. I gave everybody too much credit."

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Trumbo earned a September call-up with a superb triple-A season in which he hit .301 with 36 homers and 122 runs batted in, but his playing time for the Angels was sporadic, and he hit .067 (one for 15) with eight strikeouts.

"That wasn't a very good representation of what I'm capable of doing," Trumbo said. "My timing was screwed up. I started taking defensive hacks, just trying to put the ball in play. I'm much better when I have an aggressive approach and try to drive the ball."

With Morales recovering from for a broken left leg, Trumbo has gotten plenty of playing time this spring. He leads the Angels with 68 at-bats, even though he sat out four games last week because of right groin tightness.

"Once I get my timing, I can start to open it up a bit and hunt for pitches I can handle," Trumbo said. "Last year, I was always on the defensive. I was scrapping. My timing wasn't where it needs to be."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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