Angels outfielder Mike Trout, left, beats the tag of Oakland's Jemile… (Thearon W. Henderson / Getty…)
OAKLAND — Mike Trout of the Angels had already stolen two bases. It was clear he was itching to go again. But the pitcher was Oakland reliever Pedro Figueroa, a left-hander whose rapid slide-step delivery and catcher Derek Norris' strong arm prohibited such a dare.
Trout nonetheless put his streak of 26 consecutive stolen bases on the line Monday.
And was safe again.
"He learns every day about getting better reads, he watches film, we go over all the pitchers' times from the mound to home plate," third base and baserunning coach Dino Ebel said Tuesday. "He's blessed with God's gift of speed, but he wants to know everything about stealing a base."
Trout, who turned 21 on Tuesday, led the major leagues with 36 stolen bases through Monday, fueling his standing as the major league runs leader.
"I'm just trying to pick up all the little things, like if the pitcher moves his hands first or breaks his back leg," Trout said. "And getting the first step … you just have to have a feel for it."
Beyond the burning speed that took him from home to first in 3.53 seconds earlier this season, Trout has developed comfort in the art of base stealing so thoroughly that the Angels no longer give him steal signs.
"It's on me," Trout said. "Going in, I know the times. You have to be smart. I may not be able to steal on a pitcher who's a 1.1 [seconds to the plate]."
Said Ebel of Trout's stolen base against Figueroa: "We just needed a bigger lead. He's the guy who wants a steal even when everyone knows he'll steal a base."
It's all up in the hair
A reader/conspiracy theorist contacted The Times on Tuesday to praise Angels ace Jered Weaver as "ingenious" for letting his hair grow long.
"When the long hair flops around, it distracts the hitter and the way Weaver throws, it appears [the ball] is coming right out of that mop of hair," the reader wrote, suggesting that Weaver's teammates Dan Haren and C.J. Wilson also grow their hair long in the back to fool hitters.
Told of the "accusation," Haren laughed mightily.
"That's nonsense," Haren said. "If that were true, I'd grow my hair way longer than this. Look at my ERA. We grow our hair because we're all from California."
Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said he was awaiting reports from triple-A Salt Lake a day after starting pitcher Garrett Richards was limited to three innings and said he "tweaked" a leg in Monday's outing. … Second baseman Howie Kendrick didn't start Tuesday night in favor of Maicer Izturis because Wednesday's game starts at 12:37 p.m. … Scioscia started cleanup hitter Mark Trumbo and said he's convinced the team's leader in home runs will "come out blazing again" despite a five-for-32 slump (.156) before Tuesday's game.