Angels outfielder Mike Trout fist-bumps third base coach Dino Ebel at the… (Paul Buck / EPA )
Outfielder Mike Trout learned during a visit to Violette Elementary School in Garden Grove on Wednesday that kids are pretty observant.
"They were joking that I was closer in age to them than some of the guys I play against," the 20-year-old phenom said.
Cases in point: When Trout stepped into the batter's box Tuesday night against the New York Yankees, the pitcher was 39-year-old Andy Pettitte, who began playing professional baseball in 1991, the year Trout was born.
The Yankees shortstop was 37-year-old Derek Jeter, Trout's idol while growing up in South New Jersey. Trout was 3 when Jeter made his big league debut in 1995.
"I grew up watching Pettitte pitch, but you have to look at him as just another guy who is trying to get you out," Trout said. "It's tough to take in, just like it's tough playing against Jeter, him being my role model. When I met him last year it was crazy, surreal, like, 'Is this really happening?' But once you get out there and play, the game carries on."
If Trout is star-struck, he hides it well. He hit a run-scoring triple against Pettitte and made two spectacular catches in left field, one in which he robbed Nick Swisher of a home run before slamming into the wall, in Tuesday's 5-1 victory. Monday, he homered in a 9-8 Angels win. Wednesday, he had a two-run double.
The leadoff batter, called up from triple A on April 27, entered Wednesday with a .304 average, .364 on-base percentage, five homers, 14 runs batted in, 20 runs and eight stolen bases.
Trout has brought speed, energy and on-base ability to a team in need of a spark. The Angels were 6-14 before Trout arrived, 20-11 since entering Wednesday.
"There's no doubt his talent is real," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's going to have a big impact on this organization."
Perhaps as big as Jeter has had on the Yankees. There are similarities between the two, and that can only bode well for the Angels. Like Jeter, Trout is supremely confident, has a definite swagger and thrives in the spotlight but doesn't seek it out.
"He competes, he plays the game real well, and he's humble — he's not a guy who brags," Trout said of Jeter. "And he wins."
Torii Hunter thought he kept himself in good shape during his two-week stint on the restricted list, running 15 wind sprints of 40 yards a day in addition to hitting and throwing.
"Then I got in a game, and it was totally different," said Hunter, who was one for four in his first game back Tuesday. "In the third inning, I wanted someone to bring me some water in the outfield."
Hunter didn't start Wednesday because Scioscia wants to ease him back into the lineup. He's expected to play Friday against Texas.
"I feel great, but he wants to be cautious," Hunter said. "I understand."
The Angels will bring Dan Haren, who gave up one run in seven innings Tuesday, back on regular rest to start Sunday against the Rangers. That will push the first 2012 start of Garrett Richards, who will replace the injured Jered Weaver in the rotation, to Monday or Tuesday. … Reliever Ernesto Frieri is the first pitcher in major league history to begin his tenure with a team with 12 hitless appearances.