Angels prodigy Mike Trout skips WBC to prepare for season

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielders Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielders Mike Trout, right, and Vernon Wells watch the World Baseball Classic first-round Group D game between Team USA and Team Itally at Chase Field. (March 9, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty

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David Lennon David Lennon has been a staff writer for

David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since 1991, when he started covering New York City ...

PHOENIX

As Team USA prepared for Sunday's World Baseball Classic showdown against Canada, it was another typical morning at Tempe Diablo Stadium for Mike Trout.

Early batting practice at 8. Play cards. Team meeting with Angels manager Mike Scioscia. Board bus for the 40-minute ride to Surprise, Ariz., and an afternoon game against the Royals.

Routine. Predictable. Just the way Trout wanted spring training to be. And precisely why he told WBC organizers back in January that he needed to skip the 2013 tournament.

A year ago, Trout was a mess. Bothered by shoulder tendinitis and stricken by a mystery virus that caused him to drop 20 pounds, he eventually was forced to open the season with Triple-A Salt Lake.

The rest is history. Called up April 28, Trout hit .326/.399/.564 with 30 home runs and 49 stolen bases in 139 games. His 10.0 WAR led the majors, and he was runner-up to Triple Crown champ Miguel Cabrera for MVP.

As much as the WBC appeals to Trout, he just craved a normal, healthy, happy spring training this year. No hard feelings.

"I just thought it was the right decision and I'm going to stick with it," he said Sunday morning. "I thought the best thing for me personally was to get ready for the season. If I get another chance down the road, it's definitely going to be on my list."

No argument here. With some of the biggest American stars staying away from this year's WBC -- for debatable reasons -- his explanation makes sense.

Even so, it was surprising to see Trout show up at Chase Field for Saturday night's United States-Italy game and sit in the front row with Angels teammate Vernon Wells.

Trout admitted there was a small twinge of regret not being in uniform with his fellow major-leaguers. "It was definitely in the back of my head," he said. "Obviously, you want to be out there with the guys, competing for your country, wearing USA across your chest."

Instead, Trout was watching as David Wright drilled the fifth-inning grand slam that lifted the U.S. to a 6-2 victory. As Wright rounded the bases, Trout and Wells politely golf-clapped in a restrained show of support. "I just thought it would be a cool experience," Trout said. "See how it is, see the atmosphere."

That was close enough for Scioscia, who said, "If you're asking me, I think Mike made the right decision. He had an incredible season, and his mind-set is to be ready to repeat that. For a young player, the less distractions you can have, I think, is better. I think there'll be a time for him to explore playing in the WBC."

Trout has another four years to mull it over. By then, maybe the Angels will have rewarded him with a multiyear extension more suitable than last week's $510,000 renewal, only $20,000 more than the MLB minimum.

Trout, 21, still is waiting on a career-making payday, which probably helped to nudge him away from playing in the WBC. Promoting the game is great, but it might be a bit early to risk so much personal gain. The Nationals' Bryce Harper, who made his big-league debut the same day Trout was called up in 2012, was another notable no-show.

Trout and Harper have skyrocketed to early success, but they're still developing as players while being forced to deal with immense pressure.

"Now he's in the major leagues," Scioscia said of Trout, "and he needs to be ready for what is going to be a grind for him. I think it's important for him to get in the flow of what is going to be a season under the microscope because of what he did last year."

In Trout's mind, there's no reason for that scrutiny to start in March. Not yet, anyway.

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