Thompson hitting his way into a starting job

May 17th, 2016

LOS ANGELES -- Trayce Thompson left Dodger Stadium as fast as his two home runs on Monday night.

Sneaking out the clubhouse side door, Thompson wasn't around to react to manager Dave Roberts' comments that the rookie would be back in left field Tuesday night and was playing his way into a starting job.

"He definitely deserves a little more playing time," Roberts said.

When Monday began, Thompson was still a reserve filling in for a resting Yasiel Puig in right field. Thompson drove in three runs and scored three runs, but the Dodgers fell short in their Freeway Series opener against the Angels, 7-6, as Kenta Maeda had his briefest Major League start, allowing four runs in four innings.

Maeda is in the rotation, even though the addition of Mike Bolsinger as a sixth starter on Wednesday is designed to give the starters -- Maeda in particular -- an extra day of rest.

The analytics have to this point determined Thompson to be a right-handed-hitting role player who is not as adept at hitting right-handed pitching as he is against lefties, even though his two homers Monday night, and three of his six this year, are off righties.

He has started 17 games in the outfield, even though Puig's slump is in its second year, Carl Crawford is batting .200, Andre Ethier is still months away from returning after breaking his right leg and Scott Van Slyke has been out a month with a bad back.

But Roberts won't ignore the fact that, even with limited playing time, Thompson is tied for the club lead with six home runs, is third with 17 RBIs and his average is up to .292, only a point behind fellow rookie Corey Seager, who had two singles on Monday, a day after his first multi-homer game. Thompson has five homers in his last eight games and 23 at-bats since May 3 and is batting .345 (10-for-29) with two doubles, five homers and 12 RBIs in his last 11 games since April 28. Seager is hitting .433 (13-for-30) with two doubles, four homers and six RBIs since May 10. The Dodgers have homered in 10 consecutive games, their longest run since 2009.

"Tonight was a loss, but there were a lot of good things that happened tonight, really," said Roberts. "You look at what Trayce did, obviously, Corey playing well defensively and doing what he does. [Chris] Hatcher throws two scoreless innings, Louis [Coleman] does his thing. [Joe] Blanton rebounds and throws up a zero. There was a lot of positive tonight. Those young kids are doing some special things and opening up a lot of eyes."

So, the youth movement is kicking in, although Maeda -- technically a rookie after eight dominating seasons in Japan -- is showing cracks in the foundation. After allowing one run in his first four starts (0.36 ERA), he's allowed 14 runs in the four since (5.82), all games the Dodgers lost.

His outing was compounded by in-and-out reliever Pedro Baez, who undermined all of Thompson's offense by allowing the first four batters he faced to reach base in a three-run seventh inning.