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Mike Trout returns to the Angels' lineup after a 7-week absence with a broken hand

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Three-time AL MVP Mike Trout returned to the Los Angeles Angels' lineup Tuesday night after missing 38 games with a broken bone in his left hand.

The Angels activated Trout before they hosted the Cincinnati Reds, and he took his usual No. 2 spot in the order while playing center field.

Trout hadn't played since July 3, when he broke the hamate bone by fouling off a pitch in the eighth inning in San Diego. The 32-year-old superstar had surgery to repair the break, but he is back in the lineup seven weeks after the injury.

Trout is returning even while his healing hand still gets unusually painful when he hits in the batting cage. With the Angels' playoff hopes hanging by a thread, Trout decided he couldn't wait any longer.

“It’s definitely sore, but I’ve talked to some doctors and they’ve told me it can’t get injured more,” Trout said. “There’s definitely going to be soreness up there, but I’m just happy to be out there with the guys.”

The Halos (61-64) went 16-22 in Trout’s absence, including 11 losses in their last 18 games to fall to the fringe of the AL playoff race despite another stellar season from AL MVP frontrunner Shohei Ohtani and the acquisition of several veterans at the trade deadline.

“We’re not out of it,” Trout said. “I’ve seen some crazy stuff. We’ve got a group of guys in there that just won’t stop fighting. ... Obviously, this isn’t where we wanted to be right now, but we’re not coming in and just giving up."

Trout has never won a playoff game, and he has appeared in only three postseason contests, all back in 2014. His Angels currently have the majors' longest active streaks of losing seasons (seven) and non-playoff seasons (eight, tied with Detroit).

That's more than enough motivation for Trout to hit through some pain for the final 37 games of the regular season, he said.

“We’re running out of time here, so I’m expecting to try to be in there every day,” Trout said.

Trout is batting .263 with 18 homers, 44 RBIs and a .862 OPS this season, his third consecutive campaign in which he has missed several weeks of playing time due to injury. He was still named the AL All-Star team for the 11th consecutive season, not counting 2020, despite currently having his lowest OPS since his rookie season in 2011.

“Writing his name down (in the lineup), there’s excitement there,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “I just think there’s a different buzz in the room. There’s a lot of guys that are here, some guys that we traded for, that haven’t had a chance to play with him yet. He’s been a teammate in the dugout helping everybody out. So getting him back on the field and seeing that is a huge lift-up for everybody.”

The Angels' game on Tuesday night was their first since Saturday after two straight games were moved due to Tropical Storm Hilary and its aftereffects. They'll play a doubleheader against Cincinnati on Wednesday, and Trout said he wasn't sure how much he'll play.

Los Angeles optioned rookie Jordyn Adams to Triple-A Salt Lake three days ago to make room for Trout, who likely would have returned Sunday if the Angels had played a game.

Nevin had much less encouraging news on Anthony Rendon, who has been out since July 4 with a deep bone bruise in his leg. The Angels' $245 million third baseman still hasn't progressed to on-field work to recover from his third significant injury of the season.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB