Mike Trout says WBC reminded him ‘how bad we want to get back to the playoffs’

Mike Trout was back with his Angels teammates Sunday for the first time since returning from the World Baseball Classic.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” he said before the first of a three-game exhibition Freeway Series. “Playing in that atmosphere was pretty cool.”

Upon returning to the clubhouse, Trout said he was congratulated and hugged his teammates.

“It’s great to be back with your own team … everybody’s just glad to have you back,” he said. “There’s bigger goals going into the season.”

In the clubhouse, the excitement of the WBC faded in anticipation of another Angels season. Trout echoed Shohei Ohtani’s assessment after the tournament.

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“As soon as it was over, heading back, I texted [manager Phil Nevin]. I said, ‘I needed this,’” he said. “‘I needed to play in this atmosphere, I needed to experience it and be in the moment.’ Just made me think how bad we want to get back to the playoffs.”

When asked whether anything less than a playoffs would be a disappointment, Trout replied: “Oh, for sure. I think, I mean, every time when you start a season, anything less than a playoff is a disappointment.”

The last time Trout appeared in the MLB playoffs, the Angels were swept by the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 American League Division Series.

Shortly after the WBC final, Nevin talked about the conversations he had with Ohtani and Trout, sharing that he wanted to be up on a winning podium with them at the end of the season.

“You kind of put yourself in that situation,” Nevin said in Tempe, Ariz., on Friday. “I told them both the three of us are gonna be on there.”

Ohtani struck out Trout during the final out of the WBC, making Team USA the runner-up of the 2023 edition of the tournament and sending Samurai Japan home with a first-place trophy.

When he returned to the Angels and saw Ohtani for the first time since the tournament, Trout said they hugged.

Angels teammates Shohei Ohtani, left, and Mike Trout jog back to dugout.

Angels teammates Shohei Ohtani, left, and Mike Trout jog back to dugout against the Detroit Tigers in September.

(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

“Now we’re teammates. I’m happy he’s my teammate,” Trout said. “Gave him a hug. He’s a special talent. He’s got great stuff.”

Ohtani struck out Trout on a 3-2 slider that Nevin described in Tempe on Thursday: “There’s not a hitter alive that’s going to hit that pitch.”

The at-bat was the first Trout has had against Ohtani and was one that had been anticipated since both players committed to play in the WBC.

Trout said the only thing on his mind during that at-bat was just to barrel a ball.

“With Shohei, he’s got all his pitches, everything’s moving every which way,” Trout recalled. “He didn’t throw me a split that whole at-bat. It was in the back of my mind and then he threw me a nasty slider 3-2.”

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