Friday, June 6, 2014

Taylor Thompson quietly making solid case to join White Sox bullpen

On Thursday, the White Sox selected N.C. State pitcher Carlos Rodon with the third pick in the 2014 First-Year Players Draft. Assuming the lefthander signs with the team, his start-to-start progress through the Minor Leagues will be water cooler talk from North Carolina to the south side of Chicago.

If he stubs a toe, there’s a decent chance you’ll hear about it.

Taylor Thompson, on the other hand, has quietly performed well every year since beginning his professional career and there’s almost no chance you’ve heard about a single outing.

Ask Thompson when he was drafted and the 6-foot-5-inch right-hander will answer without hesitation. 

“The 44th.”

More specifically, he was selected with the 1,333 pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.  

When Thompson – who attended Auburn University for three years – tossed one and 2/3 scoreless innings this past Wednesday, he extended his current scoreless-innings streak to 15.2.

He last allowed a run with two outs in the eighth inning of a Knights home game against Lehigh Valley on May 6 when Jim Murphy took him deep.

The 26-year-old responded by striking out Steve Susdorf to end the inning. No one has scored on him since.

“I’ve just gotten back in the groove,” said Thompson, whose voice somehow seems too wise for his age. “I was working on some things in the first month that I wasn’t comfortable with, but I was just trying to settle in and it started to come together in May. I’ve just got to keep it rolling and keep going out there and doing what I’ve been doing.”

During April, Thompson – who throws a low/mid-90’s fastball as well a slider and split – allowed nine runs in 12 and 2/3 innings of work while struggling to stay on top of the ball and keep his front side from flying open.

By May, things had come together. The solo shot to Murphy was the only run he allowed in 14 and 2/3 innings of work.

Thompson credits the return of his split-fingered fastball for adding a third pitch to his repertoire that he can use in high-leverage situations.

“I threw the split in the past and kind of put it in the bag for a bit because it was bothering my arm,” he said. “But I brought it this year to help me out and it’s been a lot better. It’s helped me out in tough situations where I’ve needed a groundball or a strikeout.“

With his continued success, Thompson is beginning to see the other side of a dream he’s had since he was a child.

“It’d mean the world (to be called up to Chicago) because that’s what I’ve been working for ever since I was a little kid,” he said. “My dad and I talk about it all the time. He says to just stay the course, trust what you’re doing and stay patient because it’ll eventually work out.”

So while we all talk about Rodon and the chances of him making an impact for the White Sox the way Chris Sale was able to a few years ago, it’s Thompson who’s quietly ready right now.

“It’s going to mean a lot,” he said. “It’s my life-long dream to play baseball one day, hopefully soon. Right now, I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing.”