ARLINGTON -- Bubba Thompson is used to sprinting around the bases 90 feet at a time, whether beating out infield singles or stretching singles into doubles and stealing bases whenever he can with his 70-grade speed.
"It felt really good, man," Thompson said of crossing this milestone off his to-do list. "It felt good because up here, like I always say, it’s hard to get the first. So anytime you can square up like that it's always a good feeling. … Throughout the Minor Leagues and stuff, I came across some [homers]. I know I can hit them. But I’m just trying to do what I need to do to pass the baton to the top of the lineup. Any way I can to get on base. Just trying to get on for my team and make something happen."
It was only right that Thompson’s first home came against the Astros, considering he thought he had the first home run earlier this month when he launched a hard-hit fly ball that landed in the Crawford Boxes at Houston’s Minute Maid Park. The play was ultimately ruled a ground-rule double due to fan interference, negating Thompson's would-be homer.
On Tuesday, Thompson was sure to also show off his blazing speed -- something interim manager Tony Beasley pointed out as a positive for the young outfielder.
"I was hoping that he hit it and forgot about it,” Beasley said of the homer, almost jokingly. "When he came up and bunted in his next AB, that was gratifying to see. Sometimes the home run can be a bad thing for a guy like Bubba. But Bubba understands who he is, and I think he has a good concept of his game. We want to make sure that he stays within the confines of how he has to play offensively."
He’s already fourth on the team in stolen bases (8) while playing just 22 games, though he wasn’t able to notch another in Tuesday’s loss.
"When he takes off, he's at full speed," Beasley said of Thompson last week. "Not many people have that gift. That's what makes him so special as far as stealing bases. He takes off and the catcher barely gets a throw off. He has that knack for stealing bases. He's got that Tim Raines, Rickey Henderson, Kenny Lofton, Tony Womack-type stuff that you can't teach. It's a gift. It's special. Basestealers are not always taught, sometimes they are born. He may have been born."
Thompson wasn’t the only Rangers rookie to go yard in the loss. Third baseman Ezequiel Duran hit his fifth career homer in the fifth inning, cutting the Astros’ lead to just one run at the time.
Beasley and general manager Chris Young have both said that the last month or so of the season won’t be defined by the wins and losses, but rather progress made by everyone on and off the field.
Thompson and Duran’s emergence as potential everyday players in the future is a large step in the right direction.
"It is good, because we're giving those guys a chance to play and we want to see how they perform at this level," Beasley said. "Obviously, that's going to be a part of the evaluation process going forward. We want to win every night, don't get me wrong. I hate losing. But we do understand where we are. We’re still a work in progress."