Mike Trout finished second in AL MVP award voting last season. (Patrick T. Fallon / Los Angeles…)
PEORIA, Ariz. — When Albert Pujols signed his 10-year contract with the Angels, the Angels had a new face of the franchise.
That did not last one year, let alone 10.
Mike Trout showed up one month into last season, and the spotlight has not left him. In a star-studded clubhouse — Pujols has three most-valuable-player awards, Josh Hamilton one — the 21-year-old Trout is the brightest star.
That is not just media hype, as a look at the Angels' promotional schedule shows.
Of the eight giveaway items featuring individual players, five are Trout items — a bobblehead doll, a blanket, a kids' jersey, a glass, and a cap with a trout jumping out of the front.
The Angels have scheduled one giveaway each for Pujols, Mark Trumbo and C.J. Wilson. That means none for Hamilton, the former MVP signed to a $125-million contract last winter, and none for Jered Weaver, the home-grown ace who threw a no-hitter and won 20 games last season.
Trout made his spring debut Monday with a single in his first at-bat. He also walked and scored two runs in a 9-8 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
Trout did not jump at every media and endorsement opportunity last winter. He did a lot but also turned down a lot, with his parents, his agent and the Angels all buffering him to "allow him to be 21 in the off-season," said Tim Mead, the team's vice president of communications.
Trout said he does not mind the attention.
"Everywhere I go, I hear my name whispered: 'That's Trout! That's Trout!'" he said. "You can only do this one time."
As the Angels focus their promotional attention on him — more than on such established stars as Pujols and Hamilton — Trout said he would not let it affect him.
"We've got high expectations. Everybody has to do their role," he said. "You see my name everywhere. I've just got to go play the game. I can't worry about it. If you think about it, you just put pressure on yourself."
The Angels are not apologizing for capitalizing on Trout's popularity. With his unanimous selection as American League rookie of the year, Trout won the first major individual award for the Angels since Bartolo Colon won the AL Cy Young Award in 2005.
"If Albert had been the MVP last year, perhaps there would be the same items pushing that," Mead said.
Chad Cordero, the former Cal State Fullerton star and former closer for the Montreal Expos and Washington Nationals, pitched one inning Monday. Cordero is trying to return to the major leagues for the first time since 2010, and with his hometown team.
"I felt like a little kid again," Cordero said.
He and his wife lost an infant daughter on Dec. 4, 2010. He walked away from a minor league contract in 2011 but got the urge to play again after his son was born last year. He signed with the Angels three weeks ago after his agent showed General Manager Jerry Dipoto cellphone video of his performance in the Fullerton alumni game.
Cordero figures to build up his arm strength at triple A, so the Angels can better assess his progress and their needs. For now, one inning is good enough.
"I'm just so grateful to be out there pitching again," he said.