HOUSTON – If power-hitting center fielder Trayce Thompson needed more incentive to reach the next level, he’s getting it on the White Sox’ two-game exhibition stop in Houston.
“If this isn’t the best motivating thing you can get, I don’t know what is,” said Thompson, sitting at his locker Tuesday in the Minute Maid Park visitors’ clubhouse.
Thompson, a second-round draft pick by the Sox in 2009, is one of 10 minor-league extras taken along to Houston. The 6-3, 205-pounder hit 24 homers at Class A Kannapolis last season, and his showing in camp left general manager Ken Williams oozing optimism about his future.
“This kid has got some power. I can’t wait,” Williams said.
Thompson was 4-for-21, including a double and home run, and he stole two bases in three attempts in Arizona. Not eye-popping numbers, but the Sox envision him blossoming if and when he fills out. He’s 21.
Williams recently bumped into Dave Winfield, and “I told him, ‘I have a kid in the minor leagues, if he could just grow out like you grew out, you know, and just continue … he could be a monster.’ So we are really excited about a guy like that.”
Thompson’s father, Mychal, played 14 seasons in the NBA.
“To come along with this team on the charter flight, stay in the hotel, be around these guys and go through one of their days in a big-league stadium and locker room, it’s humbling,” Thompson said. “And it really makes you want to work that much harder to get here.”
Thompson will report to Class A Winston-Salem.
Morel in 2-hole
Manager Robin Ventura was looking at A.J. Pierzynski as a possible No. 2 hitter in the lineup during spring training, but Brent Morel looks like the man for the job on Opening Day.
Pierzynski, 9-for-21 with three homers and eight RBI in his last seven games in Arizona, likely will bat fifth behind Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko. At least for now.
“Right now Morel will probably be doing that,” Ventura said. “The way A.J. is swinging, he’s a nice complement with some protection for Paulie.”
Into the fire
The schedule-maker wasn’t compassionate with the Sox, but Konerko said starting the season on the road against the Texas Rangers before going to Cleveland and opening at home next Friday against the American League Central favorite Detroit Tigers isn’t a bad thing.
“We’re going to be facing the two-time AL champs starting off, so that will snap us into gear right off the bat. I think that’s a good thing,” Konerko said. “That will get us in gear to play good baseball right away because I know they’ll be ready.”
No walks allowed
Asked what his No. 1 criterion for a closer will be, Ventura said the ability to throw strikes. Ventura said “there’s a mentality” to the job and “guys who are going to get behind and walk guys have more trouble than guys who can pound the zone.”