Mike Trout walked with purpose through the Angels clubhouse and headed directly to his locker. He stood tall in a navy Angels sweatshirt and red cap and waited for members of the media to gather around him. He smiled and joked briefly about Taylor Swift’s appearance at a recent football game in Kansas City. Then the first question.
“What’s the frustration level knowing this injury is keeping you out the rest of the way?,” the Angels’ center fielder was asked.
The 32-year-old slugger’s voice broke ever so slightly. A frown crossed his face. His eyes started to water.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” Trout said. “It’s [feeling] better now, but I wanted to get back. It’s tough. It’s been hard on me. … I just want to be out there and injuries suck. All the hard work and stuff and just freak stuff happens. But [I’m] trying to stay positive.”
It had been one day since the Angels moved Trout to the 60-day injured list as he continued to recover from surgery to remove his fractured left hamate bone. The move signaled the official end of his season.
It was nowhere near the kind of season Trout had envisioned for himself or for his team, which was eliminated from playoff contention after a loss on Sept. 16, then clinched another losing season after a loss on Sept. 17.
Yet, during a 12-and-a-half minute scrum with the media, Trout showed brief flashes of hope. He tried to address any curiosity circulating about the Angels being open to a trade if Trout asked for one.
“I go through this every year. There’s private conversations I have with Arte and [team president John Carpino],” Trout said. “And like I said, I’m doing the same thing I did the last, what, 13 years? Going into the off-season, clearing my mind and getting ready for spring and wearing an Angels uniform in spring.”
Trout added: “I know there’s a lot of speculation out there. … Nothing has changed.”
As for Trout’s health, the plan, he said, has been to be fully healthy before he leaves to start his offseason.
Trout was limited to 82 games this season because of the injury that occurred while fouling off a pitch in a game in San Diego on July 3. He went on the IL, had surgery and then returned for one game on Aug. 22, but was experiencing more pain than he thought he could handle, which prompted his current stint on the IL.
“I told you guys, he fought like heck to get back and it just hasn’t gone well,” manager Phil Nevin said. “Remember, when he got hurt, we were still in this thing and it affected him. He cares about his teammates, he cares about the people around him, he cares about this organization and, most importantly, the fans.”
And this injury, Trout said, has been the hardest for him to deal with because the injury is in his hand. The three-time American League most valuable player, who made a name for himself notably with his bat, had been unable to properly have an at-bat because the effects of the hamate fracture and surgery left him in a state of trying to tolerate significant pain, especially when he swings.
“Coming into this season, I think the biggest thing was trying to be healthy and that was my goal,” he said. “Went into the offseason with a plan, hired a lot of people to work on my body. My body felt great and a freak thing happened. Broke my hand. Came back probably sooner than I should have, but I wanted to be out there with the guys.”