02/21/2013 7:16 PM ET
Trout, Miggy bond after AL MVP race
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- They play different positions, hail from different countries and approach the game in different ways.
But over the last few months -- while caught in the middle of a heated, old school vs. new school MVP debate -- Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera have built a friendship.
Down the stretch last season, Trout would frequently mess with Cabrera at third base, faking like he's going to bunt on the very first pitch of the game just to see if he'd flinch. And during January's Baseball Writers' Association of America dinner in New York, the two did a photo shoot for ESPN The Magazine, which will put them on the cover of their March 4 issue under the headline: "This Is W.A.R."
"I like talking to him, messing with him," Trout said. "He messes with me. He's a great guy."
Asked when the two got close, Trout said: "At the end of the year, with the [batting] average and stuff. We knew where we were at, and we knew we were competing against each other."
Cabrera won the American League MVP Award over Trout, on the strength of the first Triple Crown in 45 years and his Tigers reaching the postseason, but the Venezuelan native frequently said Trout deserved the honors because of his all-around play -- best characterized by the all-encompassing, controversial sabermetric stat, Wins Above Replacement.
"It makes you feel good, obviously, but I'm going to say the same thing back -- he should've won the MVP," Trout said. "I'm always going to say the same thing about him. It's pretty cool. He's a great guy. He's not that guy who goes out there and talks. He's not cocky. He's really humble, and he just goes out there and gets his business done."
Downs interested in being an Angel beyond '13
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Scott Downs wants to stay here a little longer. His representatives have expressed that to the Angels' front office, and the veteran lefty reliever is willing to negotiate a potential extension in-season.
So far, though, nothing. So Downs will head into 2013 with the uncertainty that comes with lingering free agency.
It's nothing he isn't used to blocking out, though.
"It comes from experience," said Downs, coming to the end of a three-year, $15 million contract he signed as a free agent in December 2010. "I've been a Minor League free agent, I've been released. A lot of those things you can't control. You can't control the business part of it. You can control what you do as a player to like an organization, show an organization that you want to pitch, that you want to be there. Everything else, it's up to them, and it's up to what you do out there."
In some ways, the Angels may not have a need for Downs past this coming season, with lefty Sean Burnett signed to a two-year deal this offseason and another southpaw, the young Nick Maronde, waiting in the wings.
But Downs has been the kind of guy any bullpen would covet.
Over the last six years, the last two of which have come with the Angels, the 36-year-old has ranked fifth among Major League relievers in ERA (2.30) and first in holds (134) while posting a 1.15 WHIP in 336 innings.
But he struggled uncharacteristically in the second half last year, posting an 8.62 ERA in 25 appearances after giving up only one earned run in 30 frames leading up to the All-Star break.
"I don't like looking back and making excuses," Downs said. "There were some issues early on when I got run over in [April], my ankle. It's the little knickknack things. Pitching with that caused some other little things. Your body will tell you when to slow down. So I think that might've been a way of my body saying, 'Hey, slow down, you're pushing me a little bit too hard.' It is what it is."
Downs feels totally healthy now and is excited for what another shutdown lefty can bring to a needy bullpen. He'll ease his way through spring, like he normally does, and wait to get in games so he's fresh for Opening Day.
And if the Angels want to talk about a contract after that, he's all ears.
"If they were to come to me tomorrow or in a month and say we want to talk about extending it, yeah, I'd listen to that. Who wouldn't?" Downs said. "But again, that's secondary to what's out there. The focus, for me, is winning. I've never been on a team that's gone to the playoffs, I've never been there. So my focus is that. That's why I want to be here, because of what we have in this room."
Angels' annual 5K scheduled for March 30
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels will host their annual 5K at Angel Stadium on March 30, with proceeds benefiting the Angels Baseball Foundation.
The race starts at 7 a.m. PT, with each registered runner receiving a Dri-FIT T-shirt and a voucher to that evening's exhibition game against the Dodgers at 6:05 p.m. PT at Angel Stadium. Last year, the event drew almost 5,000 runners.
Entry fee is $35 until Sunday and $40 starting next week. The one-mile Kids Fun Run is $25 until Sunday and $30 starting Monday. Online registration is available until March 27. Visit angels.com for more information.
• The Angels have narrowed down their list of potential replacements for long-time public-address announcer David Courtney, who passed away in November. The club has three candidates in mind, and each will do a Cactus League game at Tempe Diablo Stadium -- on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
• Erick Aybar will start appearing in Spring Training games this weekend as he prepares for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, manager Mike Scioscia said Thursday. He may be the only regular appearing in games that first week.
• Angels reliever Sean Burnett said his stiff lower back continues to feel good and he hopes to start long tossing again by the end of the week. The left-hander is confident the ailment won't prevent him from being ready by Opening Day.
• The Angels had picture day on Thursday morning, with 16 stations -- making up the likes of MLB.com, ESPN, The Associated Press, Getty Images, FOX and Topps -- set up along the infield at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.