DETROIT — Apparently Patrick Sandoval didn’t get the memo that the Angels’ biggest headline on Friday was supposed to be Mike Trout’s return to the lineup.
Sandoval threw the first shutout of his career and Jared Walsh homered in the Angels’ 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers, dominating on a day that began well as soon as the lineup was posted.
Trout had been out for the previous 30 games because of a back issue. He returned to center field and the No. 2 spot in the lineup for the start of the weekend series, with a 112 mph single in four trips to the plate.
As encouraging as Trout’s return was, Sandoval’s performance was not to be overshadowed.
The 25-year-old left-hander from Mission Viejo had nine strikeouts and did not walk a batter, the first time in his career he had no walks in an outing of more than four innings.
Sandoval gave up just four singles, and the Angels erased the runners with double plays after three of them. He struck out five of the last eight hitters and faced just 28 batters (one over the minimum) while throwing 73 of his 97 pitches for strikes..
Although the Angels don’t have enough time to turn this mess of a season around, Sandoval’s performance was encouraging, as was Trout’s return. Last season, Trout was projected to return from a calf injury in July, but he missed the rest of the season.
“You never want to duplicate what happened last year,” Trout said before Friday’s game. “Mentally and obviously physically it was tough for me. But I’m happy I got back and I’ve just gotta stay on top of it.”
Trout is aware that he’s going to need maintenance to prevent his back injury from becoming a continuous problem. He said he has about 15 minutes per day of extra preparation now.
That certainly doesn’t seem as dire as some of the fears a few weeks ago.
Trout came out of the game on July 12 with what was initially described as back spasms. In the weeks to follow, Angels head athletic trainer Mike Frostad provided more specific terminology for an injury that he said didn’t actually change. The spasms were the result of the muscles protecting the joint where his rib met his spine. There was also inflammation in the area. Frostad said the technical term for the specific injury was a costovertebral dysfunction, which isn’t seen often in baseball players.
That term set off red flags throughout the baseball world, but Trout was quick to say that he wasn’t worried about his career.
Even though he returned to the lineup on Friday, there will be continued questions about how much he’ll be able to play and whether he’ll be at the level that led him to three American League MVP awards.
As for the former, Trout said his “plan” is to play every day.
“I’m going to play,” Trout said. “If it feels right and it feels good, I’m going to keep playing. I have no worries right now.”
Manager Phil Nevin said he’s happy that Trout believes he can play every day, but it remains to be seen if that will be the case.
“We’re going to monitor it every day for sure,” Nevin said. “I’d love to say yes to (playing every day), but I just don’t know where he’s at. And I don’t really know Mike knows where he’s at. But we’ll talk every day. We’ll communicate. If he says that, I’d certainly love to put his name in the lineup every day. It’s exciting to have him back today.”
Trout came back without a rehab assignment. He said he felt good enough about his swing after facing an Angels minor league pitcher in one day of workouts at Angel Stadium.
“I hit some balls hard, really good,” Trout said. “I was basing it off that. If I didn’t feel right I would have asked to do some rehab (games). But it felt really good.”
Trout’s third-inning single was his only hit. He also popped out and struck out twice.
More to come on this story.