Randal Grichuk was drafted ahead of Mike Trout in 2009. Since then, Grichuk's focus has been on catching up to his buddy.
The Angels took Grichuk out of high school in Rosenberg, Texas, with the 24th overall pick in the 2009 Draft, which was compensation for the Mets signing reliever Francisco Rodriguez. With the very next pick the Angels took Trout, who is six days older than Grichuk and, of course, has gone on to electrify fans with his leaping catches and his combination of speed and power.
Grichuk, who has battled injuries since turning pro, is now putting himself in position to join Trout in the Majors.
"I definitely look where he's at," Grichuk said. "I keep in touch with him in the offseason every now and then and watch him, keep up with him. He's a friend. I root for him."
Trout went from Double-A to the Majors in 2011 and enjoyed quick success, earning AL Rookie of the Year in 2012 and finishing second in MVP voting. For Grichuk, it's been a more of a slog as a series of thumb, wrist and knee injuries kept him from playing more than 64 games in any of his first three seasons.
"I was just unlucky," he said. "Sliding into third, I tore a ligament in my thumb. Sliding into second, I sprained a ligament. Just freakish things. I couldn't do anything about it really."
But the right-handed Grichuk had a healthy 2012, playing 135 games for the Inland Empire 66ers in the Class A Advanced California League. He hit .298 and had career highs with 18 home runs, 71 RBIs, 30 doubles and 16 stolen bases.
He also set a career high with 92 strikeouts, though it remains to be seen whether that's a consequence of increased appearances for Grichuk, who has not been plagued by strikeouts in his career but could still use more plate discipline, according to scouts.
"Last year I wanted to stay on the field for 135 games, 130 games and be an everyday guy," Grichuk said. "I'm very thankful I got to do it."
Grichuk, 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, has hit .246 with 58 strikeouts in 80 games entering Monday and continued to show power with a team-high 13 homers and 14 doubles to go along with six stolen bases. His numbers were good enough to earn him a Texas League All-Star nod, and he took part in the Home Run Derby in Northwest Arkansas last month.
"Being my first All-Star game, I'm definitely blessed and it's an honor," Grichuk said.
Grichuk also believes he's within striking distance of Los Angeles. And why not? He's seen it happen before.
"Trout got called up from Double-A," Grichuk said. "It's not that distant a goal. It's right there in reach. People say if you can hit in Double-A, you can hit in the big leagues. It's just going out there, having fun and trying to put up numbers and just seeing what the Angels think of me and seeing what they want to do with me."
Birthday bash: Preston Tucker, who leads the Minor Leagues with 79 RBIs between Corpus Christi and Class A Advanced Lancaster, celebrated his 23rd birthday Saturday with his first Double-A home run and a two-out, two-run triple in the ninth inning that lifted the Hooks to a 4-2 victory at Tulsa.
K-arlos: Carlos Pimentel recorded eight strikeouts to help Frisco end a three-game losing streak and beat Northwest Arkansas, 6-1, on Saturday. Pimentel improved to 8-2 and surpassed Thomas Diamond as Frisco's all-time strikeouts lead with 311.