Trout delivers first spring homer in grand fashion

Angels superstar Mike Trout’s first homer of the spring was grand.

Trout delivered a grand slam off A’s lefty Scott Alexander in the fourth inning of the Angels’ 12-5 split-squad loss on Wednesday at Tempe Diablo Stadium. (The Angels’ other split squad fell to the Cubs, 6-5, in Mesa.) A three-time AL MVP and 11-time All-Star, Trout has been playing a lot early this spring, as he’s already appeared in nine games and had 21 at-bats. After a bit of a slow start in which he’s hit .190, his grand slam was a good sign.

Trout also went 1-for-2 with a walk against the Dodgers on Tuesday night and said it was the most locked in he’s felt this spring.

“It’s slowly getting there but [Tuesday] was the best I’ve felt,” Trout said. “Just seeing the ball better and being myself.”

Trout knows when he’s getting close to finding his timing, and his timing appears to be getting better with more reps this spring. It was evident by his grand slam, which went to dead center and came after Trout worked a 3-2 count.

“When I’m recognizing pitches early, that’s when I know I’m pretty close,” Trout said. “When I recognize the zone, my hits and production will come.”

Trout, 32, is looking to bounce back after a season that saw him slash .263/.367./.490 with 18 homers and 44 RBIs in 82 games. He missed most of the second half of the season with a fractured left hamate bone in his left hand, but he said it was a freak injury and is now fully healed. He kept his normal offseason training routine the same as a result.

Angels manager Ron Washington said he’s not worried about Trout getting back to his normal level of production and simply wants him to continue to put in work to get ready for the season. It’s a reason why Trout has been in the lineup so much, including playing a road game in Glendale on Tuesday night before being back in the lineup Wednesday afternoon. He’s expected to get the day off on Thursday.

“He’s a superstar, but he’s in Spring Training, too,” Washington said. “And there’s a lot of things that, because of the injuries that he had and the time that he missed, he has to fight to get the things that he wants. Because he knows what he’s capable of doing. But I don’t care how good you are. You don’t just do something because you keep on doing it. Especially when you talk about baseball. You got to get reps, you got to work, you got to think, you got to adjust, you got to readjust and you got to keep doing the same thing every single day.”

Sandoval gets work in with help of reentry ruleLefty Patrick Sandoval struggled in the first inning against the A’s on Wednesday, allowing a three-run homer to Miguel Andujar and was removed with two outs. But Sandoval was able to come back out for the second inning because of Spring Training’s reentry rule, then pitched again in the third and fourth innings to get his work in.

Sandoval, who gave up another Andujar blast to lead off the fourth, said he was having trouble locating his offspeed pitches. But he was pleased with his fastball command, especially after the first inning when he was falling behind in counts. He felt good physically, despite allowing four runs over 2 2/3 innings.

“The fastball felt good,” Sandoval said. “I just think right now, I’ve got to work on keeping my arm speed up with my offspeed stuff and I think we’ll be all right. I like what I did with the fastball today.”

Sandoval said establishing his fastball and getting ahead of hitters has been the biggest focus this spring under pitching coach Ben Enright and bullpen coach Steve Karsay. Last year, the Angels ranked 22nd in the Majors with a first-pitch strike percentage of 61.1 percent, with Sandoval at 59.2 percent. Last year, Major League batters had a .971 OPS when ahead in the count but a .528 OPS when behind in the count.

“They’ve been awesome,” Sandoval said of Enright and Karsay. “They just kind of reinforce the idea of getting ahead and winning counts. If you do that, good things happen.”

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