Mike Trout diagnosed with rare spine condition: What it means for his future

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Mike Trout
Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout, left, and Shohei Ohtani enter the field during batting practice a day before the 2022 MLB All-Star baseball game, Monday, July 18, 2022, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Two weeks ago, Mike Trout was put on the injured list with back spasms. It was then changed to be a rub cage inflammation injury, but today we found out that the reality of the situation is far more serious.  

Los Angeles Angels trainer Mike Frostad revealed on Wednesday that the three-time AL MVP is dealing with a rare spinal condition known as costovertebral dysfunction at the T5 disc. 

Trout has been examined by Dr. Robert Watkins III, a top back specialist and the co-director of the Marina Spine Clinic in Los Angeles. Dr. Watkins III told the Angels it’s rare to see the condition in professional athletes, and while the condition may not be a career-ender for Trout, it’s certainly something he will need to manage throughout the rest of his career. 

“We just have to take into consideration what he puts himself through with hitting, swinging on a daily basis just to get prepared, and then also playing in the outfield, diving for balls, jumping into the wall — things like that,” Frostad said. “There’s so many things that can aggravate it. But this doctor hasn’t seen a lot of it.”

As of now, the Angels have yet to decide whether or not to shut their star player down for the season. Trout received a cortisone injection last week, which provided some relief, and it could be at least another week before he begins any baseball activities,

“I don’t think we’re at a point where we’re going to make that decision [to shut him down],” Frostad said. “He’s going to have a follow-up here once we get back and we’ll just kind of see what the doctor thinks at that point.”

However, with the Angels sitting 22.5 games out of first in the AL West and 10.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot, it would seem to be foolish to rush their star player back while he is dealing with this new diagnosis. 

Trout had been enjoying a nice bounce-back season after a calf injury limited him to just 36 games last season. The 10-time All-Star was hitting .270 with 24 homers and 51 RBIs in his first 79 games, providing a bright spot in what has been another dismal season for the Angels, who will likely fail to make the playoffs again despite having Trout and last year’s MVP Shohei Ohtani on the same team. 

Given Trout’s contract as the second-highest paid player in baseball, he is likely to remain with the Angels as he tries to play through this condition. Given the unknown nature of the condition in professional athletes, it’s anybody’s guess what version of Mike Trout we will see when he steps foot on the diamond again. It would seem likely that, given the severity of the spine condition, the Angels would use him more as a designated hitter or even give him consistent days off each week to help manage the strain on his body. 

It’s sad news for a generational talent that has never quite gotten the attention his talent deserves. As it stands now, Mike Trout has 334 career home runs, 867 RBI, and 1,022 runs with a .303 average in 12 years. If you took the stats from his entire career, Trout’s 162-game average season would see him hit .303 with 40 home runs, 103, RBI, and 121 runs, while chipping in 24 stolen bases. 

He’s a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer and a player that baseball fans should hope they get to see play the game for a few more years. 

For more MLB coverage like this Mike Trout article, visit amNY Sports

I contributed to this Associated Press report
Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout
Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout reacts after he struck out swinging during the fourth inning of the team’s baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Tuesday, July 5, 2022, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)