Drew Thorpe looks sharp in major-league debut for White Sox

Thorpe, who the Sox acquired in the Dylan Cease trade, allowed three runs (two earned) in a 4-3 loss to Seattle.

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Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Drew Thorpe throws to a Seattle Mariners batter during the first inning Tuesday, June 11, 2024, in Seattle. (AP)

Lindsey Wasson/AP Photos

SEATTLE — As major-league debuts go, Drew Thorpe’s was a keeper.

The White Sox probably will keep him around for a while, too, after a rock-solid, five-inning performance against the Mariners on Tuesday night that followed high-end performances in Double-A the last two seasons. Thorpe’s plus-plus changeup came as advertised, and he appeared poised and confident throughout, shaking off shaky defense behind him and exiting with a 3-2 lead in an eventual 4-3 Sox loss.

One of the runs was unearned, and Thorpe’s pitch count of 98 prevented him from starting the sixth after fielding errors by Nicky Lopez at second base in the third and Lenyn Sosa at third base in the fifth. It was Thorpe, an athletic sort as pitchers go, who made the Sox’ fielding play of the game, picking up Cal Raleigh’s nubber near the third-base line and throwing across his body to first to complete his last inning and first big-league start.

“He looked like a shortstop out there,” shortstop Paul DeJong said.

But a pitcher, too, which is what the Sox (17-51) need as they piece together a starting rotation for the future.

“They don’t chase much and he did a great job pounding the strike zone, especially with his secondary pitches,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “He used every single pitch, fielded his extremely well. Gave us a chance to win.”

Thorpe, who struck out four, walked two and allowed three hits, looked the part right away with a perfect first, getting 0-2 counts against J.P. Crawford, Josh Rojas and Julio Rodriguez and striking out Rodriguez with the changeup. TV cameras captured standing ovations from Thorpe’s family in the seats at T-Mobile Park.

His mother got the first strikeout ball.

“They’ve been there for me,” he said, “having them here and supporting me is unbelievable. “I’ve been working for this my whole life. It’s a dream finally come true.”

The Sox’ offense, a big reason for their plight but better of late, gave Thorpe two leads to work with. Catcher Martin Maldonado broke an 0-for-35 streak with a bases-loaded RBI single in the second against Jhonathan Diaz, a late replacement for Thorpe’s teammate at Cal Poly, Bryan Woo, who was scratched with an elbow issue.

Back-to-back homers in the third by Andrew Vaughn (seventh of the season) and DeJong (13th, tied with Corey Seager for second among shortstops) gave Thorpe a 3-1 lead, but the Sox were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position in the first seven innings.

The Sox had four hits in the second but just one run, had pinch runner Duke Ellis on third with no outs in the eighth but didn’t score.

“Missed opportunites there and a couple miscues maybe in the field that may have cost us,” DeJong said. “Another one of those one-run games we couldn’t close out.”

Raleigh’s double scoring Rodriguez in the third made it 3-2, and his two-run double in the seventh against Sox reliever John Brebbia gave the Mariners a 4-3 lead, killing Thorpe’s shot at a win.

Thorpe, 23, MLB Pipeline’s minor-league Pitching Prospect of the Year in 2023, was acquired from the Padres in a spring-training deal for pitcher Dylan Cease. At Birmingham, he continued last season’s success, going 7-1 with a 1.35 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, 56 strikeouts and 17 walks in 60 innings.

Thorpe is projected by most as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

“His ability to throw his secondary pitches for strikes and we knew his changeup coming in,” Maldonado said. “Good sweeper, cutter, slider. He threw the ball really good against a good lineup. Those guys don’t chase much and foul off good pitches. Some room for improvement but first start, I liked what I saw.”

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