HOUSTON -- Angels outfielder Mike Trout returned to the starting lineup Thursday night after missing three of the last four games with stiffness in his upper back.
Trout batted second and served as the designated hitter for only the third time this season, going 2-for-5 with a double, triple, RBI and run scored.
"This is way better," Trout said of how his back felt before Thursday's game. "Our trainers did a great job."
Trout said it was a mutual decision by manager Mike Scioscia, the Angels' trainers and himself to DH on Thursday instead of playing center field. Trout said he could be back in the outfield as soon as Friday night at home against the Chicago White Sox.
"I'll see how it feels [Thursday night], then go with it," he said.
Trout started Tuesday night's game in Houston and struck out in his only at-bat before being removed from the game. He underwent an MRI exam on Wednesday and did not play in that night's 4-0 win over the Astros.
"I knew I was off and didn't want to push it," Trout said. "I came in today feeling good. The MRI was huge, knowing that it wasn't too serious as long as I didn't re-strain it."
Trout entered Thursday's game hitting .293 with 11 homers and 38 RBIs.
He missed last Saturday and Sunday's games at Oakland. The Angels were off Monday before beginning the three-game series in Houston.
"Instead of the wear and tear of him running around in the outfield, we'll DH him," Scioscia said of Thursday's lineup. "It shouldn't be tough for him to stay loose. It's not like it's the lower back. We'll just ease him back in, let him get a couple of at-bats. I would anticipate him playing in the outfield [Friday]."
Trout said he "felt good' after hitting in the cage and doing some sprints after arriving to Minute Maid Park on Thursday.
Scioscia was thrilled to have nearly every one of his starters healthy again after outfielder Josh Hamilton returned Tuesday after missing 48 games following surgery on his left thumb.
"This is one of the few times we've had our projected lineup together," Scioscia said. "This is an exciting time for us. See if we can recreate the offense. We're all kind of anxious to get this lineup together again."
• Angels first baseman Albert Pujols will be honored before Saturday night's home game against the White Sox for hitting his 500th home run earlier this season. Pujols hit his 499th and 500th homers April 22 at Washington. There will be a video presentation, and Tony La Russa, Pujols' former manager with the St. Louis Cardinals, will be present. There will be a commenorative presentation to Puljols at the ceremony, which will start about 6:50 p.m. PT.
Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.