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Amid Mark Trumbo's slump, Vernon Wells steps up for Angels

Trumbo has struck out 57 times in his last 34 games, which means Wells gets more playing time in left field for the Angels. So far, he's producing.

September 08, 2012|By Lance Pugmire
  • Vernon Wells is seeing more playing time and may continue to do so down the stretch as the Angels pursue a wild-card spot.
Vernon Wells is seeing more playing time and may continue to do so down the… (Thearon W. Henderson / Getty…)

The beneficiary of Mark Trumbo's slump is Vernon Wells, but the veteran Angels left fielder said he's taking no delight in seeing the young slugger struggle.

"I want him to succeed," Wells said Saturday, when he was given a second start in three games over Trumbo. "If he succeeds, this team wins games.

"I care about him. I want him to get through this."

Trumbo, 26, has 30 home runs, but his average has shrunk from .306 to .269 during a 34-game stretch in which he's batting .173 (23 for 133) with 57 strikeouts.

In the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia pinch-hit for Trumbo with Alberto Callaspo with two outs and a runner on second base. Callaspo said he was "surprised" by the move, but he hit a winning single to left field.

"I don't know if it's mental; there's a little frustration," Scioscia said. "It's not confidence. We know he's going to find it."

Scioscia said he doesn't believe it's a scouting thing, with Trumbo going down by the same method.

"It's not being where he wants to be in the box, being a little out of sync," said Scioscia, agreeing that anxiety is "a little" at play.

The Angels stopped Trumbo from even swinging in batting practice Saturday and had him do some "small drills" with hitting coach Jim Eppard.

The reality is that Wells may be starting more often down the stretch as the Angels urgently pursue a wild-card spot with three-plus weeks remaining in the season.

He capped a four-run first inning off Detroit ace Justin Verlander on Saturday with a run-scoring double off the wall in right-center.

Despite dealing with the most undefined role on the team, the 33-year-old had three home runs and six runs batted in over 24 at-bats before Saturday's game, with 12 RBIs in his last 18 games.

"For me, it's just a matter of staying consistent, approaching my days off as if I have a game.... I've found the best thing is to worry only about the here and now, today," Wells said.

The attitude was hammered into shape as Wells batted .244 with just 12 RBIs before injuring his right thumb in May and missing 55 games to clear the way for Trumbo's power surge.

Now, he's conversing with Trumbo, providing the type of inspiration and perspective former veteran teammates Carlos Delgado and Shannon Stewart gave to Wells when he was a young, scuffling Toronto Blue Jay.

"This will get him better," Wells said. "You've just got to keep your spirits up. The veteran guys need to keep everything loose. You're always going to go through some things in this game. Just forget about it. Let it go. Move on, take it at-bat to at-bat. Sometimes, the harder we try, the worse it gets.

"The more fun you make it, the better you play."

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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