LAA@CWS: Trout ties game with a three-run homer

CHICAGO -- Mike Trout struggled for about a three-week stretch in May, batting below .200 and striking out every three at-bats or so. Then he promptly went back to looking like one of the best hitters in baseball again, ultimately posting a .361/.471/.759 slash line in June en route to being named the American League's Player of the Month.

The key for the Angels' superstar center fielder: The front foot.

Specifically, getting it down early.

"Hitting is all about timing," said Trout, who entered Wednesday with an AL-best 1.020 OPS. "If your head's moving, or you're not still on contact, you're not going to succeed. You look at Albert [Pujols], [Miguel] Cabrera, they get their foot down. All the guys who hit the ball well, their foot's down, and at the point of contact, everything's still and their head's on the ball."

Trout has a high leg kick, and if he gets it down early enough, it's a lot easier for him to identify pitches and stay within the strike zone because he doesn't have as many moving parts when he's starting his swing.

The 22-year-old has known this for a while; he just wasn't able to execute it earlier this season and thus "wasn't seeing pitches that I usually see and I was swinging at pitches I normally don't swing at."

"For me, if I tell myself not to do too much and just take a nice, easy swing, it gets my foot down," Trout said. "And if I tell myself to try to go deep or hit it hard, my foot hangs out there longer trying to generate more power. But you don't need to. That's tough, but you just have to trust it, and it'll work."

See? Easy.

Maturing Richards turning the page quickly

LAA@CWS: Richards strikes out nine over eight frames

CHICAGO -- Garrett Richards bounced back brilliantly in Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader, giving up a first-inning three-run homer to Jose Abreu and then retiring 23 of the next 25 batters as he continued to make a strong case for the All-Star Game.

Last year, he admits, an outing like that probably goes a lot differently.

"The pitcher I am this year is far beyond the pitcher I was last year or the year before that," Richards said. "Even last year, the year before that, that game could've snowballed and I would've been out in the fourth inning. That just goes back to me just moving on and going back to controlling what I can control and making quality pitches."

Richards lost out to Mariners ace Felix Hernandez for the American League's Pitcher of the Month Award on Wednesday, but that's probably because his latest start -- eight innings, three runs, two hits, two walks, nine strikeouts -- was pushed back to the first of July because of Monday's rainout.

That doesn't change the fact that he's eighth in the AL in ERA (2.81), fifth in WHIP (1.07), tied for fifth in wins (nine) and eighth in strikeouts (108). Since giving up five runs in two-thirds of an inning against the A's on May 30, the 26-year-old has a 1.49 ERA in six starts.

Somewhere along the way, he's mastered the art of turning the page.

"That's the maturing process that I've gone through as a pitcher," Richards said, "and I'm happy with the direction I'm moving."

Angels sign young Dominican outfielder Sala

CHICAGO -- The Angels kicked off the international signing period on Wednesday by agreeing to terms with 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Johan Sala, an industry source confirmed to MLB.com. According to Baseball America, the contract is worth $300,000, leaving the Angels with just over $2 million left in their international spending pool.

The Angels made no comment on the signing.

Sala, who played in the International Prospect League, is said to have a quick bat and an aggressive approach at the plate, along with above-average speed that allows him to play center field.

The international signing period began Wednesday and runs until June 15 of next year. Each team is allotted a $700,000 base and a bonus pool based on the team's record in 2013, a figure ranging from $5,015,400 for the Astros, who had the Majors' lowest winning percentage last season, to $1,866,300 for the Cardinals, who had the highest winning percentage.

Last year, the Angels' biggest splurge was on Venezuelan left-hander Ricardo Sanchez, a then 16-year-old who signed for $580,000 -- a figure representing more than 25 percent of last year's spending pool.

Worth noting

• Angels reliever Fernando Salas, out since June 15 because of inflammation in his right shoulder, wasn't activated off the 15-day disabled list Wednesday, as initially anticipated. Salas said he felt normal soreness from his Tuesday bullpen session, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia indicated that he could be activated for Thursday's series opener against the Astros.

• The Angels currently have a six-man rotation because they had to use two starters during Tuesday's doubleheader and won't have an off-day until the All-Star break begins on July 14. Scioscia will trim his rotation back to five early next week, at which point he'll make the long-awaited decision between Hector Santiago and Matt Shoemaker.