ANAHEIM -- At the main entrance to Angel Stadium, the Angels have six giant banners, each representing one of their key players. At the start of the year, one of those six banners was of Vernon Wells. But as the season progressed, with Wells struggling at the plate before thumb surgery put him on the shelf long-term, his poster was taken down, replaced by one of local boy Mark Trumbo.
Now, as the season is in its most critical juncture, it's Wells replacing Trumbo in the lineup.
Wells started in left field on Tuesday, marking his fourth start there this month and, more appropriately, the third time in the last seven games that the slumping Trumbo was on the bench. Wells has seemingly adjusted quite well to his new part-time role, but his ascension to the lineup has more to do with the struggles of Trumbo, who's 2-for-24 with 12 strikeouts this month and is slugging just .289 in his last 47 games.
Wells knows what it's like to be a slumping left fielder in an Angels uniform.
"I think it's just an evolution of a young player -- of a player, period," Wells said. "We all go through struggles, no matter if you're Albert Pujols struggling early in the year or if you're Mark Trumbo struggling later in the year. This is baseball. You'll see some stuff happen in this game that'll make you just shake your head, and it's a matter of how you respond to them. That's what's going to define you as the player or the person you're going to be. I think Trumbo's going to learn a lot from this experience, and it's going to make him better down the road."
Who starts in left field for Angels manager Mike Scioscia may be a day-to-day mystery for the next 20 games. It may simply come down to who gets hot.
On one side there's Wells, who had compiled three hits, two walks, a homer and three RBIs during his last three starts, and offers better defense, but has been arguably the Angels' least productive hitter since coming over in 2011. On the other side there's Trumbo, still the team leader in home runs and an All-Star just two months ago, but clearly not himself since mid-July.
Wells is happy to get his playing time, but he believes his acceptance of this part-time role stems from putting himself "in a place where the team comes first and you truly want everyone to succeed." And Wells wants very badly for Trumbo to succeed again.
His best advice: Pretend the slump doesn't even exist.
"But that's not easy," Wells said. "This game mainly takes place in your head, so it's a matter of how you deal with those struggles. And I think it's a matter of trying to stay as even keel as possible, through the good and the bad. You know it's a matter of time before things turn around when you're struggling, you know it's a matter of time before things start going south when they're going well."