Saturday is a big day for Jake Thompson. The 22-year old right-hander gets to not only face major league hitters like he did in Spring Training with the Phillies, but he gets to do it in a major league ballpark; Citizens Bank Park. Thompson will start for the Phillies Futures team against the big league club in the second game of the two-game Phillies Futures Series.
This was Thompson's first opportunity to pitch in big league camp and while his final numbers weren't bad - 5 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K - he admitted that he was battling during his time with the Phillies and was never quite comfortable.
"I struggled with my breaking balls early in spring, which is extremely unlike myself, and then we made some adjustments. The first outing after we had kind of tweaked some stuff around, both breaking balls were really, really good, so I just continued to work on the fastball," said Thompson. "It was purely mechanical, they weren't really bad, but they were a tick off from where they normally are, so I was having a little trouble locating some stuff."
Things have played out the way it was expected that they would for Thompson so far this Spring. He opened in big league camp, but was never much of a consideration to make the Phillies team. He was just there to gain some experience and get some time in front of the big league staff so they could familiarize themselves with just what they've got in Thompson. From there, it was over to the minor league complex with an assignment to Lehigh Valley to open the season. Thompson will be part of a rotation that includes other top prospects like Zach Eflin, Adam Morgan, Mark Appel and former major leaguer David Buchanan. The young pitchers know that they're still going to be competing to be the next guy up for the Phillies, but the competition is a friendly one that Thompson believes will drive the pitchers to succeed.
"If I go out there and throw seven shutout innings, Zach [Eflin] wants to go out there and throw eight and Mark [Appel] is going to want to throw nine," laughed Thompson. "It's just that internal competition, we all love each other, but we all just want to be just a little bit better than the other one, so that should be good for us.
"Me and Eflin knew each other from last summer in the Pan-American Games, we were teammates and I knew Mark a little bit from playing against him in the Texas League, so it was kind of an easy transition once we all got together and it should be fun."
In his time with the Phillies, Thompson found a mentor in another new Phillie, Charlie Morton. The Phillies acquired Morton from Pittsburgh for minor leaguer David Whitehead back in December. The veteran pitcher has the type of approach that Thompson seeks to emulate.
"The guy I like talking to most is Charlie Morton, he is extremely, extremely intelligent. He kind of thinks one step ahead and that's kind of what I would like to mold myself into on the mound."
Thompson also seeks to use the same formula for success that he used when he joined Reading and helped lead them to the Eastern League Championship.
"I was using my slider a little bit more and using a two-seem fastball instead of the four-seem, that's really it," Thompson admitted. "I just had good command and was in one of those stretches where everything just seemed to work out."
Jake Thompson's career minor league stats
|All Levels (4 Seasons)||25||17||3.25||73||71||374.0||135||1.241||8.0||0.5||3.2||8.8|