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Angels not panicking over loss of Morales

Angels not panicking over loss of Morales

Angels not panicking over loss of Morales play video for Angels not panicking over loss of Morales
ARLINGTON -- Who's on first for the Angels now that Kendrys Morales is out for the season?

Mark Trumbo, for now -- and perhaps for a long time.

As distressing as the news was on Wednesday night that Morales will require a second surgery on his left ankle, there is a different atmosphere in the Angels' clubhouse this time. There was stunned disbelief after the slugger went down in his freak accident at Angel Stadium last May 29, landing all wrong on home plate in a game-winning grand slam celebration.

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"It messed us up last year when we lost Morales," said Torii Hunter, who always has the temperature of the room. "It was a huge blow. We didn't know how we'd replace him, and we struggled all year with it.

"This year, we've adjusted. He's not here. We've played without Kendrys now. We've got this young guy, Mark Trumbo, who's getting the job done. I really like him. He's showed me a lot, like all these young guys we have now. They're tough.

"Mark's not afraid. He goes out every day and gets after it. He's got unbelievable power, but he's got other skills, too. He can play."

There are those, naturally, who will push the proverbial panic button and insist that the Angels do whatever is necessary to acquire a proven weapon at first base -- at any cost.

This type of thinking generally is counterproductive. Every team in the Major Leagues is aware of what has happened in Anaheim, and none will step forward and offer the Angels a big bat with a track record at a reasonable price simply because it feels sorry for manager Mike Scioscia and his team.

On the contrary, what tends to happen at times such as this is rival general managers try to hold up a club in need. "Sure, we'll give you this guy you like, but you'll have to send us Mike Trout or Peter Bourjos in return."

Your response, if you're Angels GM Tony Reagins on the other end of the phone, is, "Nice talking with you."

The Angels are fine at first base right now with Trumbo, backed by Howard Kendrick and catcher Bobby Wilson.

Through a quarter of a season, Trumbo, 25, has more than held his own offensively and defensively, leading all American League rookies in most of the significant offensive categories. Trumbo's power numbers translate over the course of a full season to about 25 homers and 85-90 RBIs. No, this isn't quite Morales-level production. But keep in mind it took Morales 277 Major League at-bats before he broke loose in 2009 with his monster season. This doesn't happen overnight.

With the pressure on, Trumbo is batting .348 with runners in scoring position.

"That's part of my game," he said. "I take a lot of pride in hitting with runners in scoring position, picking up runners."

Trumbo's early production is impressive, and his profile -- earnest, determined, intelligent -- is reason to believe he'll continue to get better.

"He has a great attitude," hitting coach Mickey Hatcher said. "He wants to get better and really works at it."

Certainly, Trumbo is a better athlete than some scouts had projected. In his first appearance in right field, in Boston, he made a superb running catch to rob Kevin Youkilis of extra bases. Trumbo doesn't fly like his buddy Bourjos, but he can go first to third, the Angels' way.

"I like to think of myself as more than a one-dimensional player," Trumbo said.

This organization has continued to crank out quality young talent with its perennially underrated farm system. Trumbo is among a flock of young Angels reaping dividends.

"These young guys know how to play -- all of them," said Kendrick, the team's most consistent offensive force thus far. "They've kept us in games and won games for us. Trumbo, his power is amazing. And he knows how to handle the bat. He goes the other way and hits shots all over the place."

Bourjos, whose speed, defense and offensive production have made him an instant fan favorite, has seen Trumbo do remarkable things. They were teammates at Triple-A Salt Lake, where the first baseman led the Minor Leagues last year with 36 homers, also leading the Pacific Coast League in RBIs (122) and runs scored (103).

"In Portland one night," Bourjos said, "he hit a line drive that the shortstop leaped for. They have a high wall in left field there with a scoreboard on top of it. That ball kept rising and hit off the top of the scoreboard. I've never seen anything like it.

"It's his leverage and the back spin he puts on the ball. I've seen him come close to drilling a few pitchers. Scary."

Soft-spoken and analytical, Trumbo is focused on fundamental elements -- pitch recognition, controlling his aggression, improving his glove and foot work at first base.

"I just want to show I can perform at this level," he said. "I'm confident I can."

In the event he falters in the weeks ahead, the Angels can go with Kendrick at first or explore the market as the July non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, when imminent free agents become more readily available.

In the meantime, the Halos are doing just fine with Trumbo, the kid who grew up 10 minutes from Angel Stadium in Villa Park and is determined to make the ballpark his permanent address.

There is a recent precedent here. Few experts thought Morales could replace Mark Teixeira.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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