The Indians outfield situation has drawn quite a bit of attention since the start of the offseason, but Thompson has been flying under the radar as he puts together a solid spring campaign. After knocking in two runs on a double to left field in Thursday’s 4-3 victory against the Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, Thompson bumped his spring average up to .286 with four RBIs in nine games.
“He had good at-bats today,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “You could tell on the fly ball to center field he just missed it, but he had real good swings all day.”
Thompson spent the last four seasons with the White Sox, Dodgers and A’s. On Dec. 1, he signed a Minor League deal with the Indians, in hopes of securing one of the team’s open slots in the grass.
“Being with a competitive team I feel like, for a person in my situation, will only help because if I produce, they need guys to produce, so I should get an opportunity if I go out there and play well and be myself,” Thompson said. “I know there’s openings in the outfield or an open competition, per se. That’s definitely something I wanted to be a part of because I know I can contribute, so I’m just looking for that opportunity.”
Thompson started his career hitting .295 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 44 games in August 2015. He was then traded to the Dodgers in ‘16, but battled through two stress fractures in his back that sidelined him for the second half of the season.
“He’s so interesting. You look at the body, he’s so athletic, he’s a good outfielder. I mean, great kid, hustles,” Francona said. “A few short years ago, we looked across the field with the White Sox and thought, ‘Wow, this kid’s going to be a star.’ You know, he hurt his back and for whatever reason, he hasn’t been able to find that same swing or whatever it is, success.
“He feels like he’s in a really good spot. There’s an obvious fit there on our team. Whether it’s Opening Day or later, that’s something that we’re going to have to figure out. We’d love to see him succeed here because of what he could bring when he’s playing the game, or the way he’s hitting the ball the way he can.”
He hasn’t been able to crack the Mendoza Line in his limited playing time in the big leagues since his injury, but Thompson said the stress fractures have nothing to do with lack of success at the plate.
“I’m totally fine,” Thompson said. “For lack of a better word, I just sucked the last couple of years. Now I’m healthy and I’m ready to go.”
In an outfield that could consist of some inexperienced players, Thompson is hoping his four years in the Majors can help him stand out among the younger talent.
“I feel like I can contribute in all facets of the game,” Thompson said. “When I’m right, and I feel like I put in a lot of work this offseason to put myself in a position to be right, I feel like I can contribute in all ways. I’m just looking to take advantage of whatever opportunity I get out here and try to hopefully ride it into April and see what happens.”
Kluber, Bauer, Carrasco?
Francona said on Thursday that it is still too early to name an Opening Day starting pitcher, especially since Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco have yet to make their first Spring Training starts. But the Indians manager has an ideal scenario in mind, assuming the last three weeks of camp run smoothly.
The early prediction is that Kluber will be the starter on March 28 in Minnesota and Trevor Bauer will be the No. 2 starter for at least the beginning of the year. Carrasco will follow.
“Trevor is usually the one guy that can go deeper into games earlier than the other guys,” Francona said. “So if you separate them, it will help our bullpen.”
The Indians will host the Giants on Friday at 8:05 p.m. ET at Goodyear Ballpark. Right-hander Jefry Rodriguez will get the start for Cleveland and lefty Drew Pomeranz will take the mound for San Francisco.