On April 5, 1973, Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees made baseball history by stepping to the plate as the game's first designated hitter.
Now, almost 40 years later, the designated hitter is used in virtually every baseball league in America, yet players are still trying to figure out the best way to handle the special role.
On the Angels, Mark Trumbo is the player who will be spending his time trying to learn how to play a position that is difficult not because of what you do, but because of what you don't do.
Players who only hit without playing defense must find the balance between staying loose and overexerting themselves, the balance between thinking about your at-bats and obsessing about them in the down time.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge," Trumbo said. "If that does involve DH part of the time or most of the time, that's fine with me. First and foremost I still pride myself on being able to play several positions. I will treat the DH as a position in itself and I'll try to attack it on the days that I do it."
Trumbo has played first base, outfield and a little bit of third in the majors. When the Angels signed Josh Hamilton and traded Kendrys Morales, the moving parts left Trumbo as the team's primary designated hitter.
While he still figures to see time in the field when Albert Pujols or Hamilton has a day off to DH, or if Peter Bourjos struggles to hit, Trumbo is likely to get most of his playing time at DH.
In preparation, he has already spoken to former Angel Tim Salmon about how to handle the position. Salmon played 358 games at DH with the Angels, fifth on the all-time list.
Chili Davis, the A's hitting coach, ranks second on the Angels' all-time list with 586 games at DH. Davis is also among the top 10 in baseball history in hits, homers and RBI as a DH.
Davis said any players who complain being a DH instead of playing defense are not being honest with themselves.
"We need to invent the DF: designated fielder," Davis said. "You play defense and don't bat. Let's see how they like that. ... Everyone wants to hit. Even the pitchers want to hit. ... Fans like to see great plays. That's all nice, but they like to see hitters hit."
Angels' Trumbo moving to the swing shift
Orange County Register | Mar 6