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Trout: Grichuk 'breaking the ice' of big-league talent

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ANAHEIM, Calif. • At one point during a pause in action, late in Tuesday’s game at Angels Stadium, Randal Grichuk stood in the Cardinals’ dugout and made eye contact with Angels center fielder Mike Trout. He didn’t have to say a word for Trout to know the question.

The Angels’ uber-star brushed the top of his glove.

Grichuk smiled.

The home run he hit in the fifth inning to dead-center field had grazed the tip of Trout’s glove, coming that much shy of being robbed by the leaping former MVP. Instead, the ball vanished into the bushes, just out of Trout’s reach, for Grichuk’s fifth home run of the season

“It touched my glove for sure. I was a half second too late — not on the jump, but in getting back to the wall,” Trout said Wednesday at his locker in the Angels’ clubhouse. “He’s got good power. Hey, I saw it since we came up through the minors. We pushed each other. He’s got a lot of potential, and he’s just getting up here breaking the ice.”

Born six days apart in August 1991 — Trout’s older — the two outfielders became Angels within moments of each other during the 2009 draft. With the 23rd overall selection, the Angels selected a high schooler out of Texas, Grichuk, and with the next pick, 24th overall, they grabbed a high schooler out of New Jersey, Trout. They debuted together as pros. They shared the same outfield. They roomed together in rookie ball. And as Grichuk’s home run Tuesday cleared the wall and avoided Trout’s glove there was something fitting about it.

For the first time Trout came short of something he did.

“I feel like even since I’ve been traded, I’ll be connected at some point to him just because we were drafted by the same team, back-to-back, and he’s done what he’s done,” Grichuk said. “The things he’s done in the game already are unbelievable. I got injured so much in that organization that I think I got put on the backburner. I don’t think they expected too much from me or expected too much out of me at that point. This (coming to the Cardinals) helped rejuvenate me, you might say.”

And Trout has been watching.

The four-time All-Star said he keeps up with Grichuk’s career: his move to the Cardinals in the four-player deal back in the winter of 2013, his rise to Class AAA and torrent of power for Memphis, his debut in 2014 with the Cardinals and his 17 homers in 2015. Trout knew about Grichuk’s production in spring training and also of his struggles earlier this season to put back together his swing after a good spring.

“He had all the talent in the world,” said Trout, who won an MVP in 2014 and has finished second in MVP voting in the three other years of his career. “Great power. Could throw. Could play defense. I always knew if he could just stay healthy and could stay out in the field he would definitely make it. People talk about that change of scenery, the fresh start — he took full advantage of it. New start. It helped him.”

Trout recalled how the comparisons between the two started quickly. Once signed, they both spent time with the same rookie-level affiliate. The speedster, Trout, played center. The slugger, Grichuk, started some in left and also played right, alongside Trout. They roomed together through rookie ball and shared a place during instructionals before, as Grichuk put it, “I got hurt and he … ”

He took off, becoming one of the best young players in the game.

After Tuesday’s game, Grichuk left the ballpark and headed to Trout’s house to spend some time with his former teammate, his All-Star handcuff. Trout said they used to talk as roommates about their shared goal of making the majors “and then staying there.” For the first time their careers have intersected. One is a fixture. The other is trying to be. Trout said it was nice to have Grichuk over and that into the evening they “talked about old stuff, memories.”

Old stuff? Memories? Glory days?

They’re 24 years old.

“I feel like any time somebody trades a player, I feel like the player is excited to go back and see some of the guys he was close with in that organization,” Grichuk said. “Obviously, you also want to go in and do well and kind of show them they made a mistake.”

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