Mariners DH Mark Trumbo can relax after some initial criticism following a midseason trade from Arizona. He’s feeling at ease with Seattle at the plate and in the clubhouse.
Mark Trumbo looks at ease in the clubhouse at Safeco Field about an hour before batting practice. He’s seated at his locker with his feet up and head phones in, blasting rock music — Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen.
The avid guitar player acknowledges teammates as they pass, makes jokes and smiles.
He’s a part of the Mariners now. He feels it on the field and off.
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It’s a look you rarely saw from the designated hitter in the first six weeks after he was acquired from the Diamondbacks on June 3 along with Vidal Nuno in a trade that sent catcher Welington Castillo, reliever Dominic Leone and two minor-leaguers to Arizona.
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“It’s something only time can really influence,” Trumbo said. “You try to fit in as a quick as possible. Now it’s a complete 180 from a few months ago. I know everyone. I know their personalities. I just feel part of something that maybe earlier wasn’t the case.”
In those early weeks with the Mariners, things weren’t so easy for a player wanting to fit in and make everything normal after his life and season were thrown into disarray with a midseason trade. Trumbo, you sensed, wanted to produce for his teammates and to quiet the growing criticism of the trade.
And it wasn’t happening.
“You want to make a good impression,” he said. “You want to contribute. There’s always a reason you are brought somewhere. Obviously my job is to drive in runs. And when you aren’t driving in runs, then what are you doing for the team? I’m not an elite defender or a plus runner, so I kind of do what I do. And if I’m doing it, great. And if not, it’s rough.”
Rough was a kind way of putting it.
From the time of the trade to the All-Star break, Trumbo hit .219 (23 for 105) with a .559 on base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) in 30 games with just three doubles, two homers and nine runs batted in.
“Nothing was easy,” said Trumbo, 29 and in his sixth major-league season. “The results speak for themselves. I was awful.”
And it wore on him.
Mark Trumbo file
Postion: Outfield. Height, weight: 6-4, 225.Age: 29. Bats: Right.
“It’s a mental drain, for sure,” he said. “I’m a guy that’s going to fight each and every day, and that was really tough. I tried to have perspective through it and remind myself I did a lot of good things in the past and that I will do a lot good things in the future.”
To make matters worse, over that same span, Castillo was hitting .286 (24 for 84) with a .904 OPS, including six doubles, five homers and 15 RBI in 24 games.
At the National League All-Star media availability in Cincinnati, A.J. Pollock and Paul Goldschmidt sat side-by-side at their respective podiums. They fielded a litany of questions/statements typical of such events. When the subject of their former teammate Trumbo arose, they perked up.
“He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Goldschmidt said. “He’s awesome to play with and compete with.”
Pollock was even more effusive in his praise and shed light on why he might be struggling.
“He’s probably my favorite teammate,” he said. “I love watching him play. He’s very fiery and has a lot of energy. He gets in trouble just like me — we are similar — we just care so much about the game. You care too much and you go 0-fer — and you don’t help your team — it just kills you inside. I’m sure he’s trying to prove to Seattle that they got a great player, and they did. It will come.”
They were right. Trumbo came around.
Since July 7, he’s hitting .293 (61 for 208) with an .851 OPS, including 10 doubles, 11 homers and 32 RBI.
Manager Lloyd McClendon can see it in the clubhouse and in the dugout. Trumbo is different now.
“I think he’s starting to settle in really nice,” McClendon said. “He has a track record of hitting home runs and driving in runs. He’s a leader in a lot of respects, and he’s starting to settle in and become comfortable with his teammates. He’s starting to lead on his field. And he has a tremendous desire to win. He has the ingredients you want in every player you manage.”
The intensity that he brings is something that all of Trumbo’s managers have enjoyed. Once the uniform goes on, the focus is singular.
“It’s the only way I really know how to play,” he said. “I’ve had to back down a little bit as the years have gone on — just trying to stay a little more even-keeled. I watch the game. I don’t like to goof around or anything. I try to watch almost every pitch even if my spot in the order is not coming up right at that point. Maybe I’ll see something that can help when I do. It’s the way I need to play.”