The clock is ticking on Mike Trout’s return.
The Angels center fielder fractured his left hamate bone in a game on July 3, had surgery and returned on Aug. 22. He experienced more pain in his hand and wrist than he thought he would be able to tolerate after one game, prompting another IL stint on Aug. 25.
“I wasn't right,” Trout told reporters in New York after being put back on the IL. “I was in some pain more than tolerable. I thought I could push it just to get back out there and just came in the next day really, really sore.”
Trout has been trying to return, but with only 12 games remaining on the schedule, the three-time American League most valuable player does not have much more of a window.
To be certain, Trout’s return, at this point, would not change the final result of the Angels’ season. They were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention after losing to the Tigers on Saturday night. Their 5-3 loss to Detroit on Sunday at Angel Stadium left them at 68-82, guaranteeing their eighth consecutive losing season.
Trout’s return would matter more in the spectrum of peace of mind for himself, being able to finish a season not on the IL, especially considering this is his third consecutive season that has been derailed because of an injury. Trout was unavailable for comment for this article.
He played just 36 games in 2021 because of a left calf strain. In 2022, he missed a month recovering from a back injury. He worked diligently between 2022 and 2023 to ensure that neither of those problems would come back, only to suffer the hamate bone fracture fouling off a pitch.
“He wants to play again this year, I mean, he's voiced that many times,” manager Phil Nevin said before Sunday’s game. “As soon as he feels like it’s tolerable to play in a game again, he’s gonna get out there. But I think he’s gonna be more cautious this time as to what he was last time, being that aggressive with it.”
In his down time, Trout has continued to be a presence for his teammates, watching games in the dugout when he is not in the trainer's room getting treatment. On Saturday, he joined Nevin, closer Carlos Estévez, pitchers José Suarez and Jaime Barría, infielders Luis Rengifo (bicep tendon surgery) and Eduardo Escobar and former Angel Albert Pujols in a pregame celebration of the career of Tigers star Miguel Cabrera.
Trout has been limited to 82 games this season, mostly because of the hand/wrist injury and some because of load management.
“He hasn’t swung a bat in a while so it’s going to take some time,” general manager Perry Minasian said Saturday in a news conference. “With that being said, I think the goal for him, it would be great for him, too. Peace of mind is important going into an offseason. I believe it would be really beneficial for him to play again, but it has to feel good. … With where we’re at in the standings, there’s no reason to push it to a certain extent.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.