With Mike Trout nearing a rehab assignment and working out with Class A Advanced Inland Empire, Matt Thaiss looked forward to just watching the injured All-Star go about his business. But some casual chitchat with a fellow New Jersey native didn't hurt either.
After taking batting practice with the Angels' superstar, Thaiss reached safely in all five plate appearances and tied his career high with four hits as the 66ers defeated the Stockton Ports, 7-1, on Tuesday night at San Manuel Stadium. He previously collected four hits on April 23 against Rancho Cucamonga.
Gameday box score
It marked the second four-hit game of the season for the second-ranked Angels prospect, who extended his hitting streak to a career-best 10 games. Over that span, he's batted .341 with five extra-base hits and eight RBIs. While Thaiss was pleased with his offensive outburst, being around the one of the game's best all-around players was an even bigger thrill.
"We hit in the same group in [batting practice] and talked a bit," the 22-year-old said. "We just made conversation and I talked to him like a normal guy, which was nice. It was mostly casual, but I definitely watch his approach in the cage and how he goes about his swing.
"Tonight, I was able to get a few more pitches to hit and the balls found some holes. At the end of the day, I'm trying to put a good, hard swing on the ball. Luckily tonight, they fell in."
Thaiss walked and was on the back end of a double steal in the first inning. The first baseman lined a pair of singles to right in the third and fourth, and then pulled his third base hit of the game into right again in the sixth. He grounded a ball into center in the eighth.
Video: The 66ers' Matt Thaiss reaches for a fifth time
"The biggest thing in [the California League] is these guys know how to pitch. When you're down in [Rookie-level or [Class A], they're still trying to figure out how to do it," he said. "They're just throwing and not necessarily pitching to certain counts. The pitchers here know how to do that and it's a battle every single day. You see great starters and guys out of the bullpen throwing in the mid- and upper-90s."
Thaiss was selected 16th overall in last year's Draft and proceeded to bat .292/.361/.462 in 67 games with Rookie-level Orem and Class A Burlington. Although he's not hitting for as high an average this season, the former catcher at the University of Virginia has driven in 46 runs and scored 41 times in 78 games with the 66ers. Tuesday's performance lifted his 2017 slash line to .267/.356/.408 as he continues to learn his way around first base.
"You focus on your job on each side of the ball," Thaiss said. "When you're hitting or when you're fielding, you don't think about the other. It's only been 100-something games for me [at first base], but I've got a real good feel for it. Having [former Major Leaguer] Chad Tracy as manager as a guy who played the position and knows so much about it has been huge for me. I'm just continuing to work on that each and every day." MiLB include
Angels No. 6 prospect Taylor Ward drove in two runs and No. 17 Troy Montgomery singled twice for his fourth multi-hit effort in five games. Brendon Sanger went deep twice and drove in a career-high four runs for the 66ers.
Righty Matt Shoemaker allowed two hits and struck out five in three innings in a rehab start. Jesus Castillo (4-2) surrendered one run on six hits and a walk over five innings. The 26th-ranked Angels prospect struck out four in his first relief appearance since 2015.