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Mike Trout eyes ’20-plus’ steals; Washington ‘not concerned’

Mike Trout broke into the majors as a true five-tool player who stole 49 bases during his first full season with the Los Angeles Angels in 2012.

Trout stole 24 bases as recently as 2018, but the three-time American League MVP didn’t steal that many in the next five seasons combined while age, injuries and the Angels’ overall philosophy slowed him down.

Before Trout took the field for the Angels’ home opener against the Boston Red Sox on Friday night, he said he was eager to start running wild on the bases again — and manager Ron Washington is willing to see it happen.

“I think 20-plus would be cool,” Trout said when asked how many bases he would like to steal. “Thirty would be really fun.”

Trout stole only six bases in the previous four seasons, three of which ended early because of major injuries. He is now a muscled, 32-year-old power hitter who doesn’t rely on speed, but Trout remains confident he can reclaim the form on the basepaths that made him perhaps the most versatile offensive talent of his generation.

He realizes he might be thinking about the risk while running the bases this year. He played in only 237 games over the past three seasons but said he can’t play worried about another injury.

“If you’re out there holding back a little, I think sometimes it puts you in a worse position,” Trout said. “I’m not saying that’s what happened [with other injuries], but I feel like if I want to steal a base, I can steal a base, and Wash gave me the go-ahead. Looking back at the managers I had before, if I [told] them I wanted to steal some bags, I would have. They wouldn’t have minded it. But it wasn’t like a game plan we had before. So the last three, four years, it hasn’t really worked. So I figured why not just go out there and whatever happens, happens.”

Washington is fully on board with Trout’s desire to play aggressively this season. The Halos’ new skipper traveled to Trout’s offseason home in New Jersey shortly after he got the Angels’ top job for a lengthy discussion about exactly what Trout wanted to get out of this season and beyond.

One of the top topics of conversation was Trout’s desire to play freely and steal bases aggressively. Washington said he trusts Trout to do the right things.

“You get hurt when you try not to just let your natural ability play,” Washington said. “If he sees an opportunity to steal a bag when he’s on first base, second base, go for it. I don’t want Mike stealing 50 bags, because I don’t want him hitting the ground that much. But if Mike decides he wants to get 50 bags, and he can get to 50 bags, I’m not going to stop him. I’m not concerned about him maybe hurting himself or anything like that, because when you think like that, that’s what happens. He’s thinking the other way. He’s thinking positive.”

Trout also expressed his usual indefatigable optimism about his long-struggling team, which has major-league-worst streaks of eight consecutive losing seasons and nine straight non-playoff seasons.

Although the Angels lost reigning AL MVP Shohei Ohtani in free agency and entered the season with low external expectations, they are off to a 4-3 start with more contributions from young talent than they’ve had in years. Trout is already impressed by Washington’s leadership and teaching ability.

“It feels like a different vibe this year,” Trout said. “Hopefully it rubs off on the fans, and the fans come to see us play. … I think going through spring and then the first road trip, the vibe is different. With everybody buying in, it’s been fun.”

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