Mike Trout, now in his fourth month on the injured list, speaks, and he's 'going crazy'

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Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout before a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics in Oakland, Calif., Monday, July 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Mike Trout says the physical challenge of his rehab remains baseball activity the day after working out. (Jeff Chiu / AP)

As soon as he gets on the team bus, Mike Trout just wants to play baseball. As soon as his shoes touch the grass of Angel Stadium, he just wants to play baseball. It was the joy the Angels' star centerfielder brings to each game, the exuberance after big hits or robbing opponents of home runs, that so endears him to fans.

Since May 17, when he felt a pop in his calf during a game against the Cleveland Indians, that joy has largely disappeared. Amid the longest recovery from injury of his career, Trout has been “going crazy.”

“It’s a grind,” Trout said before Saturday’s game against the Indians. “I come in every day, work hard, and it seems like it’s just dragging. It’s definitely wearing on me a little bit. But I’m staying positive.”

“Mental health is serious stuff, man. Nothing to just look over.”

Mike Trout

At times, Trout seemed in good spirits, saying he was feeling better every day. The key to his recovery, he said, was getting to a point where he could play the day after working out. The injury is healed, but scar tissue still needs to be broken down. The timeline for a rehab assignment remains unclear.

“After [working out], it just aches,” Trout said. “I’m trying to get rid of that.”

At other times, his word choices, the wrinkling of his eyebrows and his voice's solemn tone made it clear that Trout’s injury wasn’t just taking a physical toll.

“Mental health is serious stuff, man,” he said. “Nothing to just look over.”

It’s one of the hardest stretches of his career, he said. During his recovery, Trout has had frequent conversations with Angels manager Joe Maddon. Apart from simply checking in about his calf, the manager has advised his centerfielder about how to keep his head level.

“The beauty of all of this is that at some point you have to realize there’s more to this whole thing than just the game itself,” Maddon said. “You need diversions. You need somewhere to park it. You just can’t do this 24/7. It’ll eat you alive.”

Trout’s parking spot, to use Maddon’s terminology, has been his family.

His son, Beckham, now a year old, is just now starting to play basketball, Trout said with a proud smile. He just runs around the house. He doesn’t know any better. He’s perhaps the only person in his dad’s life who doesn’t know he’s hurting right now.

“It’s one of the coolest things in my lifetime,” Trout said. “Proud of it, just being a dad. I’m learning things I wouldn’t be able to do, obviously, playing baseball; I’d be at the field all day.”

In Trout’s case, the young prodigy has become the wise veteran, trying to be a “boost of confidence” in the dugout for young outfielders Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh and the rest of the Angels’ youth movement.

Trout is trying his best to listen to his body. He doesn’t want to risk lingering pain in the offseason, or rushing back too quickly, which might lead to another complication.

But the Angels are 62-62, 8.5 games out of a wild-card spot. They haven’t waved the white flag yet, but time’s running out. Trout knows it.

“You watch him on the bench, you’ll see it in his eyeballs,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He wants to be here.”

PITCHING UPDATES

Starter Alex Cobb, who’s been on the disabled list since July 30 with wrist inflammation, had a setback in his recovery, according to Maddon. His condition continues to “vacillate,” the manager said. “I don’t have any strong expectation that he’ll be back anytime soon.”

Maddon indicated that he doesn’t expect the right-hander, who is 7-3 with a 3.82 ERA this season, to be out for the year.

“I don’t think it’s thunderstorming yet,” he said.

Maddon didn’t have anything new to report on the condition of Patrick Sandoval, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday with a back injury. He was also unsure on the status of Chris Rodriguez, who went on the disabled list in Triple A with a lat injury a week ago.

Jose Quintana, who started Thursday’s game and gave up five earned runs in an inning and a third, will be moving back to the bullpen, Maddon said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.