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Playing for the ultimate call

Hermosillo hoping to make final jump to “The Show”

Michael Hermosillo says the most important part of his six-year journey through the Los Angeles Angels minor league system has been his ability to stay in the moment and keep away from being too high or too low.

That mindset can prove difficult, especially when any phone call could be the one that all minor leaguers dream about — the call to the major leagues.

The 2013 Ottawa High School graduate and the Angels' 28th-round selection that summer has had many more ups than downs over the past couple of seasons. Currently with the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees and the Angels' No. 10 prospect, Hermosillo climbed the organizational ladder from Class A Inland Empire, to Double-A Mobile, to Salt Lake in 2017 — combining to hit .267 with nine homers, 44 RBIs and 35 stolen bases in 120 games.

In November he was added to the Angels' 40-man roster.

"It was an automatic invite to spring training," said Hermosillo. "It was after a workout with our strength and conditioning staff at the complex in Tempe (Ariz.) when I got the call from L.A. Angels assistant general manager Mike LaCassa. He said that the Angels were excited they were putting me on the 40-man, and that was really it. Kind of like, 'We're happy for you, be ready to go.'

"It was a very brief, but an exciting phone call for sure."

Hermosillo has been solid in center field over the past couple seasons, but he is also working towards being a contributor anywhere in the outfield.

"It has been stressed to me that they want to be able to trust me defensively at all three outfield spots at any given moment," he said. "A big focus for me, and them, is to just make sure I'm as sound defensively as I can be. Defense has never been a problem for me in the past, but they just want me to be as comfortable as I can be, whether I'm in left, center or right.

"They have told me they feel my bat will always be there, but they want me to be as sound as I can out there in case that call to the big club comes along."

The numbers in spring training weren't where Hermosillo would have liked them to be. He was just 4-for-32 (.125) in 17 games, including a single off Chicago Cubs ace Jon Lester, but he felt he did a lot of good things that don't always show up in the box score and admits he was tweaking things along the way.

"It's crazy, it really is," he said of the spring experience. "When you sit down and think about all the guys that you're able to compete against every day during spring training and the players I was able to call teammates, I mean, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and the list goes on. It never gets old and you never get used to it. ... It's surreal and awesome all at the same time.

"Spring training can be hard to judge a player's performance because so many guys are working on so many things because the games don't count," he said. "At the end of the day you know, even if you strike out in four straight at-bats, that it's not the regular season.

"I was definitely messing with a lot of different things in the spring. I was bouncing ideas off the hitting coaches, pretty much every day with them. I was trying different approaches each and every day and then checking video with how I felt in those at-bats. I was really never set on a certain thing throughout the spring, but was working towards where I wanted to be once the Triple-A season started."

Hermosillo said he felt it was a guarantee that he would start at Salt Lake to begin this season regardless of his spring numbers, especially with the Angels having Justin Upton, Trout and Kole Calhoun, plus the signing of veteran Chris Young.

"It wasn't what I wanted to do numbers-wise, but I also felt I played well on the defensive side and showed I can steal bases. I felt like I did all the little things well, and hopefully they saw that."

Hermosillo, before Wednesday night's game against Fresno, was hitting .275 with two doubles, four triples, four homers, 15 RBIs and an OPS of .882 in 23 games. On April 17, in a 12-3 over Sacramento, he posted a two-run triple before smacking three-run and solo homers to finish with a career-high six RBIs.

"Honestly, it started in my very first at-bat," he said of thoughts it would be a good day. "I felt really good and saw a couple of pitches really well before hitting what was probably the hardest ball I hit that night on a one-hopper to third for an out.

"I remember coming in the dugout and looking at my teammate Sherman Johnson and telling him, 'We're going to get him (Sacramento starter Casey Kelly) today.' I just felt as a team we were going to have a great game. Then three batters later we hit a home run, and after that it was everybody taking turns."

He felt the game really slowed down for him after that initial at-bat.

"It's hard to describe, to be honest," he said of the feeling of being locked in at the plate. "The pitch before the triple I swung and fouled a pitch straight back, but I felt like I had swung too hard. So I just told myself to to not overswing, stay back and just go with the next good pitch. It was a pitch on the outside corner, and I was able to hit it the other way.

"After that I just felt comfortable in the box the rest of the night. I was just in a zone where you're not really thinking and your ability just takes over."

That ability took over again, and then some, this past Tuesday night as Hermosillo hit for the cycle, including a grand slam, and knocked in six in the Bees' 13-9 win over Fresno.

"I just try to control what I can control," he said about being one step away from the majors. "The biggest thing for me is to go the the ballpark every day with a positive attitude, run the bases hard, play defense well, get a couple of 'A' swings off and hope a couple of hits fall my way. I have to stay in the moment and not look ahead or think about what could be.

"If I do all those things, everything else will work itself out."

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