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MLB: Four All Stars have L.A. set for bright future

Focus will be on Angels’ Trumbo, Trout and Dodgers Kemp, Kershaw during baseball’s second half

Posted: July 13, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 13, 2012 1:55 a.m.

American League's Mike Trout, of the Los Angeles Angels, laughs during warmups for the MLB All-Star baseball game on Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo.

 

KANSAS CITY — Baseball’s star is on the rise in Los Angeles.


How do we know?


The answer lied in Kansas City earlier this week.


A lot of the attention during Major League Baseball’s All-Star week centered on the rise of two rookie phenoms — Washington’s Bryce Harper and Los Angeles Angel Mike Trout and how both have become the future of the game in an instant.


But closer to home, Trout and one of his teammates and two Dodgers are just touching the surface on what could be a long reign for star power in Los Angeles.


Trout’s teammate Mark Trumbo has put his name on the map with a stellar follow-up to his rookie season with the Angels. Both made their first All-Star appearance this year.


Dodgers Matt Kemp, who was the best player in baseball in April and maybe the best player in the game in 2011, and 2011 National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, made their second All-Star teams.


“It’s pretty surreal right now,” Trout said of his season. “During the year, I don’t think about this stuff, but being here is pretty incredible.”


Trout is leading the American League in batting average (.341) and stolen bases (26) and he’s just 20 years old. People are talking about the kid, who spent the season’s first month in the minor leagues, as an MVP candidate.
And his peers are talking about him as well.


“Shoot, one of my favorite players right now is Mike Trout,” Kemp said. “He’s doing an amazing job for the Angels. He’s given them a push and got them back to what they’re doing.”


The Angels are 40-24 in games Trout has appeared in. Prior to his call-up, the team was 6-14.


But the turnaround also coincides with the 26-year-old Trumbo solidifying his spot in the Angels’ outfield.


After leading all rookies in 2011 with 29 home runs, Trumbo was a man in a crowded outfield who needed to find a position in 2012. With the signing of Albert Pujols, Trumbo tried third base, but struggled there.


May 3 was the last day he played third base and from that point, he has really taken off, batting .307 with 19 home runs since May 4. Overall, he is hitting .306 with 22 home runs and 57 RBIs.


“Going into the season, I didn’t know what my role was going to be. Probably playing some third base, probably not playing every day. It was up to me to make the adjustments,” Trumbo said. “As things have changed, a spot opened up in the outfield, that’s where we’ve been going for a while and it’s been going pretty well.”


Together, they’ve put the Angels back in contention in the American League West as the team is four games behind Texas for the lead.


“They’ve made our lineup go,” said staff ace Jered Weaver. “We haven’t had a stable top-of-the-lineup guy since Chone Figgins left, and now Trout has come in and filled that role. He’s pretty electric at the top of the lineup. And obviously, with Trumbo hitting the ball well with power and average, those guys have made our team go, and we’re going to be riding them the rest of the way for sure.”


Kemp and Andre Ethier was the combo that was making the Dodger lineup go, but both succumbed to injuries at some point during the season.  


Kemp had one of the greatest Aprils in Dodger history, batting .417 with 12 home runs and 25 RBIs, but hamstring injuries have cost him 51 games.


The Dodgers jumped out to a big lead in the N.L. West, but have had to rough it without their stars, seeing San Francisco overtake them in the standings after an offensive outage that led to a 5-15 mark leading up to the All-Star Break.


The Dodgers managed to take the lead back and now enter the second half with a 1/2 game lead over the Giants.
Now the 27-year-old Kemp is ready to go.


“I think you go nowhere but up,” he said. “For me, I’ve been rehabbing, my timing’s getting better every day. If I were to have a bad couple of games, that’s going to happen. But I’m going to help my team in every way. I’m pretty confident in myself.”


Add to that the promise of Kershaw, and the Dodgers are in great shape.


That promise lies in what the 24-year-old Kershaw has done thus far and what he’s capable of.


He is 6-5 with a 2.91 ERA, and that’s with him not being at his best.


But if last year’s second half is any indication, the best could be yet to come for Kershaw.


In last season’s second half, he was 12-1 with a 1.31 ERA.


“You never want to be satisfied, but I think if you told us at the beginning of the season you’d be in first place and not have Matt and Andre for an extended period, we’d take it,” Kershaw said. “It should be a fun second half.”


So with that, baseball in Los Angeles goes into its stretch run with its two teams in division races, each led by two young stars.


For all the potential that these guys have for years to come, this year has been a showcase for all of them. Four All-Stars who will have an impact on the 2012 Major League Baseball playoff picture.


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