Angels’ Mystery: Where Is Trumbo?
It has been the only mystery left in an otherwise sagging Angels’ season.
Where is Mark Trumbo?
The best power-hitting prospect in the organization was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake City at the start of the month along with teammate Hank Conger. But while Conger has started a few games behind the plate and had a good share of at-bats, Trumbo has been MIA.
He hasn’t started a game or come up to the plate once. If the Angels were still in the A.L. West race, you could understand it. But they’re not. They’re 91/2 games out with 12 to play. You could have stuck a fork in them two or three weeks ago.
So what gives? Why is Manager Mike Scioscia so reluctant to play Trumbo, who hit 36 home runs, more than anyone else in minor league baseball. Why not take the opportuniity to get a nice, long look at him before making any final 2011 plans?
“Because we’re still trying to win games, that’s why,” Scioscia said. “We haven’t had that X (meaning official elimination) put next to our name yet.”
I then asked the manager if that’s the case, why play Conger?
“Because we have more options at first base (where Trumbo plays) than we do at catcher,” he said. “(Mike) Napoli is killing the ball and Juan Rivera has been getting some big hits for us at first. Our two other catchers (Jeff Mathis and Bobby Wilson) aren’t hitting much, so Conger gives us some extra offense.”
OK, but I still don’t understand. Trumbo isn’t just another prospect. He vaulted himself into the club’s top two or three with a huge second half at Salt Lake, finishing with 122 RBIs and 103 runs scored, both tops in the PCL, to go with those 36 homers.
I realize his immediate future at first base is blocked by Kendry Morales, the Angels’ best player, who is expected to bounce back from his broken leg next season. But Trumbo has played some outfield in the minors and will play some in the Winter League.
So wouldn’t you want to see what he could do now? You know, get an early peek at assessing his strengths and weaknesses against big league pitching? It’s what most teams usually do in this kind of situation.
But it hasn’t happened yet. As much as the fans have been clamoring for it in e-mails, on radio and on the internet, Scioscia has remained firm.
Maybe when the club is officially eliminated, something that should happen later this week, he’ll relent and give the kid a chance to show what he can do.
Still, it’s strange it hasn’t happened already. Napoli and Rivera are both makeshift first basemen who never will be mistaken for a Pujols, or even a Kotchman, on defense. And Scioscia’s explanation about Napoli’s offense doesn’t hold up, either. You always have the option of using Mike as the DH, freeing up first base for Trumbo.
But so far, nothing. It doesn’t matter that Trumbo hit .351 in the second half of the year in Utah, dramatically raising his average from .270 to .301. Or that he seemed to really improve his understanding of the strike zone, walking more and striking out less.
All that has translated into is a nice trip to Southern California and some lavish new surroundings, a chance to stay in first class hotels and draw some major league meal money on the road.
But in games, nothing. No starts, no at-bats, no chance other than one quick late-inning appearance as a defensive replacement.
Scioscia can talk all he wants, but on an Angels team desperately looking for more offense, how can you call up and then just sit what could be one of the true power hitters you so obviously need?
Seriously, someone explain it to me. I just don’t get it.
— STEVE BISHEFF