Whether he likes it or not, the end of the 2016 season is near for 22-year-old Jake Thompson, much in the same way the 2016 season ended early for Vince Velasquez Saturday night.
But, over his last two starts, Thompson is giving the organization and fans something they can be hopeful for when looking at the future of the team’s young pitching staff.
Sunday, Thompson had the best outing of his young big league career, but his offense gave him no support in a 2-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves (see Instant Replay).
Thompson threw 100 pitches, 61 for strikes. He allowed four hits and four walks (one intentional) while striking out six. His only blemish came on a home run from Matt Kemp, who led off the second inning with a mammoth shot on an 0-1 changeup.
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Other than “one bad pitch” in that second inning, Thompson said he “did what he wanted to do with the ball.”
But the seven innings he threw gave him 163 on the year, the most he’s thrown at the professional level, even more than last year, when combining his minor league work with the Pan Am games he pitched in and the playoff starts in Reading. His 2015 total was 155 2/3 innings.
“For me, being the kind of pitcher that I am, 200 innings is the goal each and every year,” Thompson said after Sunday’s start. “That’s something that I’m still building and striving towards.”
Better luck next year.
The Phillies, who are closing out another season with a listless offense and building toward the future, have no reason to get Thompson’s number anywhere near 200.
Velasquez’s season ended Saturday with 131 innings pitched. He went out on a high note with a great effort on the mound.
Thompson is following suit. After a rough first four starts, Thompson worked on some mechanical changes and has been brilliant his last two times out.
A 1-2-3 first inning by the young righty on Sunday featured a great defensive play by him and two strikeouts.
Thompson settled in after Kemp’s second-inning homer, retiring the next three Braves hitters in order. He had retired seven straight before Freddie Freeman’s one-out double in the top of the fourth inning. Thompson was able to strike out Kemp and got Nick Markakis to ground out to end the threat.
Thompson got into trouble again in the sixth inning. Back-to-back walks to Freeman and Kemp loaded the bases with one out and brought pitching coach Bob McClure to the mound. But Thompson got Markakis to ground into a double play to escape trouble.
The Braves loaded the bases again in the seventh with two outs, but Adonis Garcia slowly grounded out to Maikel Franco and Thompson’s outing was finished with just one run allowed.
“We’re trying to develop pitchers who go deep into games,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “I saw no reason to not let him battle his way out of that. He did a great job. I couldn’t be happier with his performance… That’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for people who will fit in in the future.
“After his first four outings with us, we weren’t sure what we were seeing. His last two outings, especially today, he pitched extremely well. That was great to see.”
How much more we’ll see of Thompson is a topic the Phillies are discussing internally.
“We’re monitoring him closely,” general manager Matt Klentak said before Sunday’s game. “One thing I think we have to remember, not just looking at his minor-league innings, he pitched in the Pan Am Games and made two starts in the AA playoffs. His workload last year was a little heavier than it might first appear. So I think we have the ability to push him a little more in September. But we’re going to monitor it. Some of his early outings have been a little bit more stressful. The last one was really encouraging. Much like we went into the season without a specific target for Vince, we’re going to have to play it out with Jake as well.”
Thompson would like to continue as long as they’ll let him. But, in a lost season that continued with his team’s sixth consecutive loss (they’ve now lost 10 of 12), the future is more important.
“I understand their plan,” Thompson said. “That’s not saying that I won’t put up a fight in it. I understand what they’re doing. I understand the long-term goals and whatever is best for this organization I’m going to do.”