NEW YORK — Trayce Thompson continues to make a strong case for a 2016 roster spot after had another impressive performance in his Yankee Stadium debut.
The White Sox rookie outfielder homered and drew a bases-loaded walk on Thursday night in his first game in front of a “hostile,” but “fun,” Bronx crowd.
In particular, Thompson’s walk against All-Star reliever Dellin Betances provided more evidence of his ability to handle big moments. While no decisions about next season have been made, White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Thompson — hitting .315/.378/.618 with five home runs and 15 RBIs in 98 plate appearances — has made a strong impression.
“It’s hard not to look at him as though he would have his foot in the door definitely just because of the way he’s playing,” Ventura said. “He’s a smart player, but you want to make it through the season and see how he does. You can make evaluations then.”
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Few encounters rival playing at Yankee Stadium, where fans are on top of the action and in your face. Thompson appreciates the atmosphere. He said fans razzed him all game but briefly let up after his sixth-inning homer off Michael Pineda.
“It’s all fun,” Thompson said. “That’s what I grew up in as far as basketball and stuff.
“They were giving me some grief in right field, so once I got back, they applauded me for a second, but then it was right back to getting on me a little bit. It was funny.”
Thompson’s next plate appearance was even more impressive as he bounced back from a 0-2 count against Betances to walk and force in a run.
“I don’t know too many people that end up walking in that situation,” Ventura said.
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Thompson said a previous at-bat against Betances in the Fall League, as well as knowing the scouting report, gave him a good idea of what to look for when he was down in the count. He expected Betances, who has 124 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings and a 1.37 ERA, to get him to chase the curve, and then he was able to sit on a few fastballs that missed to force in a run.
Thompson’s play hasn’t only caught the attention of his manager, either.
“It’s in his blood,” pitcher Chris Sale said. “This isn’t the easiest stage to play a game at, and he did it.
“He’s done it the whole time. I’m definitely excited to see where it goes from here for sure.”
Thompson batted third for the third time on Friday and has hit cleanup in four games, too. It’s part of the team’s plan to see what Thompson can and can’t handle. So far there hasn’t been much of the latter.
“He’s playing well,” Ventura said. “You want to keep him in there and give him as much as he can. At this point, you are trying to get as much information and give him a true experience of playing.”