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Angels' Mark Trumbo a utility player unlike others

He's a versatile defender who also is an offensive threat. Going into Saturday's game, Trumbo had a team-leading 12 homers and 37 RBIs.

June 01, 2013|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • The Angels' Mark Trumbo is a 6-foot-4, 235-pounder who is breaking the mold of the traditional utility player.
The Angels' Mark Trumbo is a 6-foot-4, 235-pounder who is breaking… (Ed Zurga / Getty Images )

Most utility players are versatile defenders who can play two, three and sometimes four infield positions, spot up in the outfield and give you a decent at-bat. They're not strapping middle-of-the-order sluggers who hit 30 to 35 homers a year.

In Mark Trumbo, who has started 26 games at first base, 12 at designated hitter, 11 in right field and seven in left field this season, the Angels have a 6-foot-4, 235-pounder who is breaking the utility mold.

"I don't know in history of many cleanup hitters who play first base, left field, right field and DH," third base coach Dino Ebel said. "That's a lot, but he's doing well, and he seems to enjoy it. Wherever the team needs him, he's gonna post. That's where it starts. He has a great attitude about it."

Few players, especially those in their prime, embrace utility roles. Those are usually for guys who aren't good enough offensively or defensively to hold down one spot. That's not how Trumbo, 27, sees it.

"I think utility is pretty cool," Trumbo said. "Unless you're the everyday guy at one position, you're a utility player. There are some quality guys around the league like Ben Zobrist who bounce around a bit. It's actually kind of a compliment that they have faith that you can play a couple different spots."

Trumbo is a first baseman by trade. That's where he played as a rookie in 2011, when he hit .254 with 29 homers and 87 runs batted in.

Then the Angels signed first baseman Albert Pujols before 2012, and Trumbo split last season between left field (66 starts), right field (31), DH (22), first base (16) and third (eight) while batting .268 with 32 homers and 95 RBIs.

When the Angels signed outfielder Josh Hamilton in December, it appeared Trumbo would be relegated to DH. But injuries to Pujols have pushed Trumbo to first quite a bit, and he's playing plenty of outfield.

The strong-armed Trumbo won't win a Gold Glove Award, but he has played adequate defense, committing one error in 253 chances at first and one error in 44 chances in the outfield.

"I always strive to make the routine play," Trumbo said. "I understand that I don't have some of the tools the other guys have, like great closing speed. I think if I position myself and stay a little ahead of the game, make some good throws when I have to, hopefully I can contribute.

"A lot of the plays in the outfield might be the first time I've seen a ball like that. I try to store it in the memory banks and learn from it."

Most important for the Angels, Trumbo's defensive demands haven't slowed him at the plate. He entered Saturday with a .274 average and a team-leading 12 homers and 37 RBIs.

"Those utility guys are special players," said Pujols, who played the corner infield and outfield spots in St. Louis as a youngster. "I used to carry four different gloves, and with double-switches in the National League, I could finish a game in the outfield or at third.

"If there's anyone in this room who can do it, it's Trumbo, because he keeps himself in good shape, he works hard, takes pride in his defense and tries to get better every day." 

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

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