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Lyle Spencer

Trumbo should thrive in desert pairing with Goldy

New D-backs left fielder already getting raves for dedication, analytical approach

Trumbo should thrive in desert pairing with Goldy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In his 2011 breakout season as runner-up in the American League Rookie of the Year race to the Rays' Jeremy Hellickson, Mark Trumbo became known as "Thunder" in a relationship with longtime buddy Peter "Lightning" Bourjos.

Angels fans envisioned a long, entertaining run with "Thunder and Lightning," but partnerships don't always last. Three years into a career as one of the game's emerging power hitters, Trumbo is a D-back and Bourjos is a Cardinal. They'll always be close, but now they're rivals in a new league, with new clubs.

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"Pete and I talk all the time," Trumbo said. "We had a great time coming up together through the system and in Anaheim, but this is part of the business. Nothing is forever. I'm really happy to be in Arizona, and Pete's excited to be in St. Louis."

In the desert, D-back fans have every reason to be enthused about a new partnership. Call it "Thunder and More Thunder."

In Paul Goldschmidt, second to Andrew McCutchen in the 2013 National League Most Valuable Player balloting, and Trumbo, his new left fielder, manager Kirk Gibson has a pair of long-distance operators calling to mind Bash Brothers Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco -- or, more recently, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

Goldschmidt (36, 125) and Trumbo (34, 100) combined for 70 homers and 225 RBIs in 2013. Cabrera and Fielder, in their final season together in Detroit, went deep 69 times with 243 RBIs as a unit.

Walked intentionally an NL-high 19 times while assembling a .302/.401/.551 line last year, Goldschmidt might see more good pitches with a menacing Trumbo looming behind him.

Similar in raw power, physical stature and an earnest approach to taking advantage of all their gifts, Goldschmidt, 26, and Trumbo, 28, are expected to create headaches for NL West pitching staffs for years to come.

"He's very cerebral, very methodical," Trumbo said of Goldschmidt. "Albert [Pujols] comes to mind as very similar. It translates. It seems like guys who are able to maintain that focus are able to thrive.

"For a guy to put up those numbers in his second [full] year in the big leagues is pretty phenomenal."

Acquired in a three-team winter deal that sent pitchers Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago (via the White Sox) to the Angels and center fielder Adam Eaton to Chicago, Trumbo will not be shy about using the disciplined Goldschmidt as a resource in becoming a more complete hitter.

"This is our third official day [of Spring Training], but I've been here since the third [of February]," said Trumbo, who grew up about 10 minutes from Angel Stadium in Villa Park, Calif. "I wanted to get settled in, get to know people.

"Everyone has been great. Paul was super accommodating. He said, 'If you have any questions at all about anything, I'm here.' I started peppering him with some things about pitchers in the league, hitting. I'm really looking forward to being around him on a daily basis."

Driven to the point that he can be too hard on himself, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound Trumbo acknowledges his .250/.299/.469 career line is not where he wants it to be -- and believes it will be as he makes refinements.

There's nothing wrong with his 95 homers and 282 RBIs in three seasons, but he aims to be less streaky.

"Last year," he said, "I did walk more [54 times, up from 36], but my batting average went down [to .234 from .268] and I had too many strikeouts [184].

"I'm going to try to cut down my stride this year. When you're going good, you can feel like the best hitter in the game. But then there are huge valleys. I've done some things to try to be more consistent."

Trumbo was a multi-positional chess piece with the Angels, moving from first base to right field to left to designated hitter. He even had a brief fling at third. He was most comfortable at first, but that position and his former No. 44 belong to Goldschmidt. Trumbo will wear No. 15.

Confident he can adapt to left and flourish, he has made 73 career starts there with positive analytics: seven runs saved, according to Baseball Info Solutions.

In the company of Dave McKay, considered one of the game's premier outfield coaches, Trumbo has taken a proactive approach to improving his footwork and throwing motion in left.

"Before camp, we stayed later for an hour or so to walk through some drills, break some habits," Trumbo said. "I don't have the breakaway speed like some guys, but there have been quite a few guys who became good outfielders by being in the right spot, getting good breaks, using your head.

"My biggest thing on defense is being dependable. I'm really happy with my throwing; I've changed a few things."

McKay reached out to Rob Picciolo, who coached Trumbo in Anaheim, and got a rave review.

"Picciolo had so many good things to say about Mark, on and off the field," McKay said. "Rob said he made himself a very good first baseman with his work ethic, and first base is a lot more difficult than the outfield. You're throwing from all sorts of different angles at first.

"He wasn't lining up properly, and we corrected that. Usually that takes awhile, but he got it the first day. He's sharp. He thinks about everything you say and asks, 'How is that going to help me?' He's very analytical. That's what I like about him."

Bourjos is in St. Louis, but another of Trumbo's Angels buddies, catcher Bobby Wilson, is hoping to hook on with the D-backs.

"Trum's going to thrive here," Wilson said. "This place -- the ballpark, the team -- is made for him."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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