Thompson still believes despite struggles

Thompson still believes despite struggles

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jake Thompson has not been the pitcher the Phillies expected him to be this season.

Thompson has struggled with the Phillies and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He allowed seven runs in five innings Wednesday night in a 7-0 loss to the Angels at Angel Stadium. Cesar Hernandez committed an error in the third inning to lead to five unearned runs, but Thompson failed to stop the bleeding when he allowed home runs to Mike Trout, C.J. Cron and Kaleb Cowart.

"I think it's part of the process," Thompson said. "You take your bumps and bruises along the way. You have to grow. You can't get scared and back down from it. I'm certainly not. I feel that eventually I'm going to be a successful Major League pitcher. It was just one of those nights."

Thompson induces a 4-6-3 DP

Thompson, 23, pitched five scoreless innings on 30 minutes notice Friday night against the Braves. Jeremy Hellickson had been scheduled to pitch that night, but he was scratched as the Phillies finalized a trade with the Orioles.

It remains to be seen if Thompson will get another turn in the rotation or if the Phillies look to somebody like Triple-A right-handers Zach Eflin or Ben Lively. Eflin is scheduled to pitch Thursday for the IronPigs. Lively got hit on his left leg with a line drive last week. There is a chance Lively could pitch Saturday, but he might not be ready.

"We'll talk about that," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said about Thompson's spot in the rotation. "I'm not sure. We'll see what we've got."

Thompson got only three swinging strikes on 92 pitches (one on a two-seamer, two on a slider). The 3.3 percent swinging-strike rate is the second-lowest by a Phillies starter this season (minimum 50 pitches), according to Statcast™.

Eflin got just two swinging strikes on 89 pitches (2.25 percent) on April 23.

Thompson's two-seam fastball did not have much bite on it. At the very least, he left too many up in the strike zone. Too many other pitches ended up over the heart of the plate.

"It was stuff leaking back over," Thompson said.

Thompson joined the Phillies in the July 2015 trade that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers. Thompson began 2016 as the 55th best prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com. He made his big league debut nearly a year ago against the Padres in San Diego. Thompson went 1-3 with a 9.78 ERA in his first four starts, but he then went 2-3 with a 3.41 ERA in his final six.

It was an encouraging finish, but Thompson opened this season at Triple-A and has struggled since. He went 4-11 with a 5.36 ERA in 18 starts with the IronPigs.

"Just command. Fastball command," Thompson said about the difference between last season and this season. "Getting ahead, staying ahead. You have a little more leeway when you're ahead in the count. When you're constantly behind or in even counts, you have to make good pitches. Tonight, I didn't in certain spots and paid for it."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.