ANAHEIM -- The surprising thing about Mike Trout's historic rookie season isn't necessarily what he's doing, but when. Anyone who saw Trout torch through the Minor Leagues knew he had the skill set to someday be a star in the big leagues. Maybe not during his age-21 season, per se, but someday.If there's one thing that does come as a surprise, though, it's the frequency with which he's driving balls over fences. In 1,117 career at-bats in the Minor Leagues, Trout totaled all of 23 home runs. In 376 of them in the Majors this season -- heading into Tuesday's game against the Indians -- Trout already has 21. The reason, Trout said, has everything to do with his batting stance. Shortly after his April 28 callup, the Angels' center fielder toyed with standing more upright in the batter's box. He'd do it a little one day, feel comfortable with it, and do a little more in a week or so, until getting to a point now where he's more upright in the batter's box than he ever had been. It's allowed him to get more extension with his hands, have a better feel for the strike zone and, ultimately, go deep. "I tried it in BP one time and just liked the way the ball was coming off my bat, getting better spin coming off the bat and just catching it more up front instead of more deep," said Trout, whose home run total ranks 17th in the American League, while his batting average (.340), stolen bases (37), runs scored (89) and offensive wins above replacement (6.2) all rank first. "Every game, I just got higher and higher. It wasn't one time where I said, 'Hey, I'm going to do this.' I mentioned it to [hitting coach Jim Eppard], we just talked about it a little bit, and it worked. I was seeing the ball longer, getting a [better feel] the strike zone, and it just worked out." And because of that, Trout has evolved into a true five-tool player -- one who's as fast as anyone in baseball, is capable of making head-turning catches in center field, boasts a strong arm, can win a batting title and, now, is a legitimate home run threat. But Trout doesn't believe his newfound power will change his approach at the plate. "I'm still getting my singles and working gap to gap," he said. "I'm just getting more pop now."
Scioscia hasn't lost sight of Angels' goals
ANAHEIM -- The Angels successfully busted out of their April skid, posting the best record in all of baseball from May to the All-Star break, and they have now wasted a lot of that effort by going 12-18 to start the second half.But on Tuesday -- with his team eight games out of first place after dropping three of its first four to the Mariners and Indians -- manager Mike Scioscia vowed that his team would get right again. "There are some games in some stretches where you don't think you're ever going to win another game the rest of the season; there are some stretches where you don't think you're ever going to lose again," Scioscia said. "I wholeheartedly believe ... that this team is going to turn it around and reach our goal." Over the last two games, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson have produced solid starts while the offense combined to score just one run while they were on the mound, leading to back-to-back losses. But Scioscia continued to stress that his offense -- one that ranks second in the Majors in runs per game since the start of June -- has been nothing short of a bright spot. What has to get right is the pitching staff. In August, which the Angels have begun 3-9, the pitching staff sports the highest ERA in baseball, at 6.30. Largely responsible for that is the bullpen, which has collected an 8.37 ERA that's by far the highest in the Majors (the second-place Rockies have a 7.64 mark). Still, Scioscia continues to pin most of the blame on his starting rotation, which boasts five All-Stars but has somehow compiled a 5.35 ERA this month. "That," he said, "is what's holding us down right now." That's the department that was supposed to be the Angels' greatest strength, with the five current starters combining to make more than $60 million this season. And that's the department that has underachieved most profoundly lately (with Weaver being the exception). "Our rotation is very important to us, and they haven't pitched to their capabilities," Scioscia said. "That's one area. Obviously the bullpen getting stretched because of that, because they're connected, has forced us to stretch some roles, which have started to push some things the wrong way down there. On the offensive side, you can't ask much more than what the team has done since the first weeks of the season. We've been terrific. But it takes more than one area to win a championship."
Walden, Downs likely returning by end of week
ANAHEIM -- Angels relievers Scott Downs (strained left shoulder) and Jordan Walden (neck and right biceps injuries) continue to progress in their rehab assignments, making it seem likely that both will return by the end of the week.
Making his second rehab appearance for Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday night, Walden pitched a 1-2-3 inning (with one strikeout) and is slated to make what could be his final tune-up on Thursday. Manager Mike Scioscia doesn't believe Walden needs to appear in back-to-back games before being activated, even though he's been out since July 8.
Downs threw a bullpen session and then a simulated game and will repeat the process again on Thursday. Asked if that could be his final step, Scioscia said: "It can be, but like I said, we're going to let this thing tell us where he is."
Zack Greinke gave up four runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out five in seven innings against the Indians during Tuesday night's 9-6 victory. It gave Greinke his first win in an Angels uniform and snapped an eight-start winless streak, dating back to June 27 while with the Brewers. To kick off Anniversary Week -- a celebration of the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Series -- the Angels invited former closer Troy Percival to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Tuesday's game. Garret Anderson will do the honors on Wednesday. Over his last couple of games, Albert Pujols has gone 4-for-7 with two homers and six RBIs, giving him a .280 batting average with 26 homers and 82 RBIs on the year. In the six games before that, Pujols was 1-for-23.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.