One moment rookie Trayce Thompson was the man, enjoying his third home run and probably looking forward to seeing his diving catch — which earned a fist bump from starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija — on ESPN and MLB Network highlight segments.
The next moment, he found himself making a long run to the right field fence, tracking down Chris Johnson’s single that went through him in the eighth inning, allowing two runs to score in a 6-4 White Sox loss to the Cleveland Indians.
“Yeah, I just had my mind focused too much on the runner,” Thompson said. “And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you have to catch the ball first. It happens. It’s going to happen again, I’m sure in my career. It’s just terrible timing. We had a little momentum on our side with the home runs and stuff. It’s just a bad play and I have to move on, and have confidence in myself and stay aggressive out there.”
Thompson, generally regarded as one of the Sox best defensive outfielders in their entire system, is a .241 career minor league hitter who has made a splash with his bat in his first look-see in the major leagues. He went 2-for-4 Wednesday to raise his batting average to .404. He looks tall, graceful, athletic and appears to have plenty of tools to have a career in the majors.
Bouncing back from gaffes like Wednesday’s costly mistake will be part of the process that gets him one.
“Rarely does he do that. He’s a good defensive player,” manager Robin Ventura said.
“Yeah, he played well. That [error] ends up biting you but all the way around it’s not going to keep him from playing. He’s a good player and, you know, we all make mistakes but we like the way he’s been playing. It’s an unfortunate play but he’s going to bounce back from it. He’ll be fine.”
Thompson was calm but visibly upset about it all after the game. A few lockers away, Samardzija, a veteran pitcher, was doing some soul searching of his own. In his first and possibly only season with the White Sox, this was supposed to be a springboard to a big contract in free agency for the right-hander. But he has been rather ordinary, falling to 9-12 with a 4.89 ERA. He is 1-7 with a 7.91 ERA over his last eight starts.
“There’s always high expectations, especially from myself and everybody,” Samardzija said. “I try and stay away from anything that comes from the media and things like that. I can only control what happens here in the clubhouse and these guys see me working, they see what I do and we’re in here as a team. You don’t want to let your buddies down, you want to go out there and perform and win a game on your own if you have. That’s what we keep working for and that’s why you keep going through this process all the time.
“I’ve learned a lot. There’s always more to learn in this game, you can always figure out a way to get better and a lot of times that comes from battling out there and going through ups and downs. You keep going out at it and you find yourself in different situations when the ball is bouncing your way and it’s going good. But you’ve got to fight through the downs and work your butt off to enjoy it when it is going well.”