TEMPE, Ariz. — Mike Trout knew the first question he was going to get this spring. He was so sure of it that he asked it himself: What are his thoughts on team owner Arte Moreno choosing not to sell the team?
“When the word first came out that he was selling the team, it was kind of a shock to me,” the Angels star said, answering himself. “But once I saw (general manager) Perry (Minasian) making moves and trying to make the team better, which he did, I kind of got a little sense that he wasn’t going to sell the team.
“It’s good to have Arte back. I know he was committed this offseason to making the team and the roster better. And he’s definitely done that.”
Trout sounded bullish about the Angels this year. He also said he will spend the season actively persuading two-way star Shohei Ohtani to sign a long-term extension to stay with the Angels while acknowledging that a successful season will be critical in that effort.
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When asked if he felt this team is equipped to win in 2023 — by a reporter this time — Trout was quick to say yes.
“I do,” he said. “I had a talk with (Angels manager Phil Nevin) yesterday and Perry. They’re not done. I think they’re going to go out there and try and get some more guys for this team. We’re definitely a lot better than we were last year.”
Trout was adamant about his desire to keep Ohtani. He said that his superstar teammate has to make the right decision for him but hopes that Ohtani’s choice — which he called “the biggest one of his life” — keeps them as teammates.
“I’m going to do everything I can, for sure,” Trout said. “I’ve built a great relationship with (Ohtani) over the years.”
Rob Manfred backs Moreno
When Moreno announced in January that he was no longer selling the team, the press release included a statement from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred gushing about Moreno’s decision.
Manfred was asked Wednesday at his annual spring training news conference why he held that belief, given that Moreno’s watch includes the Angels’ eight-year playoff drought and a slew of controversies and lawsuits.
“I think Arte, over a long period of time, has been a good steward for the game,” Manfred said. “He’s been a valued member of the ownership group. He’s made contributions in that group.
“He has, I think, put forward effort in terms of spending to make sure that he’s putting a good product on the field. He had an amazing run over a number of years where he was drawing more than 3 million people. There’s a lot of success that had been had there.
“And I think a lot of the sorta negativity recently was a reflection back on the Angels — not a product of him doing anything inappropriate or improper. He had bidders, had the option, and made the decision that he wanted to own the club. And I think that’s a good thing.”
• Max Stassi said he spent the offseason “simplifying things” after he struggled offensively in 2022. Specifically, he said he wanted his swing to stay on a consistent plane. He generally felt that his underlying batted balls numbers were good but that he needs to make more contact. Regarding the competition to win the starting job, Stassi said: “I just go out there and try to handle my business. … Whatever they think is the best team out there to win games, that’s what I care about.”
• Angels starting pitchers threw their first bullpens of the spring Wednesday. Ohtani threw a pen under the watchful eye of Moreno and the team’s front office. Ohtani didn’t throw any curveballs. He’s likely to make his first spring training start on March 1 before going to Japan for the WBC. Nevin said Ohtani would start games in the WBC and that his pitch count will mirror what his ramp-up would have looked like in Angels camp.
• Nevin said the Angels will consider using a swingman for the sixth spot in the rotation. That would enable the team to use the pitcher as both a starter and a reliever at times. Nevin has stated a desire to use his starters — particularly Ohtani — more often this year.
• Former Angels standout Bob Boone was in camp as a guest instructor. Nevin said he’ll invite more players, likely including Darin Erstad, Chuck Finley, John Lackey, Troy Glaus and others. He said the purpose is to bring in players who have been a part of successful Angels teams to show the current roster what’s expected of them.
• Minasian was asked about the Angels’ expectations this year, and if he feels as if he’s built a playoff roster. He said, “I think it’s a team that’s talented. I think going into the offseason, we tried to address some of the issues we felt really stood out from the last two seasons. … Our expectation is to be very competitive.”
(Photo of Trout: Rick Scuteri / USA Today)