SCOTTSDALE, AZ -- White Sox pitcher Zach Thompson doesn’t have a personal vendetta against the other 29 teams in major league baseball, he’s just pitching like it.
The 6-foot-7 right-hander was left unprotected by the White Sox this offseason, making him available in the Rule 5 Draft in December. Every team in baseball could have selected him, knowing that they’d have to keep him in the majors all season or risk losing him.
Thompson waited by the phone during the Rule 5 draft waiting for a call that never came. He went 0-for-29.
Now he’s out to prove to everyone that they made a mistake.
“Every single time I’m pitching against another team, I want to show them, ‘Hey this is what you missed. Now this is what the Sox have,'” Thompson said. “It’s kind of looking at every dugout after I throw against them and do really well saying, ‘There you go. That’s what you could have had, but too bad. Here I am.’”
A phone call Thompson did receive this winter came from pitching coach Don Cooper who explained on the White Sox Talk Podcast in January what he was going to tell Thompson.
“I’m hoping you have a chip on your shoulder, because you are good,” Cooper said. “You did get kind of slighted by 29 other clubs. They had a chance to get you. They didn’t take you, but you’re with us. I’m hoping to give him as much of an opportunity in spring training to show everybody this is what you missed. This is why you should have picked me up. I’m glad he didn’t get picked up.”
What did Thompson take from his offseason conversation with Coop?
“That I want to go out there and pitch pissed off,” he said.
So far in spring training, the mild-mannered Thompson has come out of the bullpen in a fit of rage, giving up one run on three hits in six innings with two walks and seven strikeouts. In 2018, the starter-turned-reliever had a breakout season, posting a combined 1.55 ERA with 76 strikeouts over 75 1/3 innings with Winston-Salem and Birmingham.
Sunday, it was the Arizona Diamondbacks' turn to see what they could have had with Thompson. He entered the game in the eighth inning with a man on first base and one out. Thompson needed only one pitch to get Ryan Grotjohn to ground into a double play to end the inning.
“We’ve been very impressed by what he’s been doing. Absolutely,” Rick Renteria said about Thompson. “Here’s a guy with tremendous angle, has a lot of action on his pitches. He’s attacked the strike zone. He’s only had a couple of games in which the first hitter has actually gotten on by a walk or a hit. He’s been aggressive in the zone, showing that he’s commanding it. He’s confident and he gets after hitters which is good.”
Thompson might have entered camp as a longshot to make the Opening Day roster, but with nine games left in Arizona, he still has a locker inside the major league clubhouse at Camelback Ranch. He’s hoping that when the White Sox begin the season in Kansas City on March 28, he’ll be there with them.
“I’d like to think so. Everyone in here would like to think you have a spot. I’m going to keep that mindset no matter what happens,” he said. “There’s only a week left in camp. I’d like to think I’ll break with the team, but I can only do what I can do and control what I can control and just see what happens.”Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.