Thompson shows grit in scoreless debut

August 3rd, 2021

WASHINGTON -- When news of a trade broke, reliever packed up a few suitcases full of baseball “stuff” and a few articles of clothing and traveled to meet his new team in the nation's capital.

After a few days with the team, he made his Nationals debut on Monday night, tossing a scoreless inning in a 7-5 loss. He allowed two hits and one walk and loaded the bases with two outs. The right-handed reliever showed composure during the high-leverage moment, striking out pinch-hitter Rhys Hoskins to end the frame.

Manager Dave Martinez wanted to get the reliever out of the ‘pen -- no matter the situation -- to see how he would fare. The skipper was impressed with Thompson’s outing, noting that even though he got himself into a jam, the most important thing was that he was able to settle in and get out of it.

“[I’ve] got to learn these things about them,” said Martinez. “I want them to feel comfortable coming out of the bullpen and facing on adversity if need be, and go out there and try to get out of some big situations for us. We need to know that about these guys.”

The righty was in El Paso, Texas, with the Padres’ Triple-A team when he found out that he -- and Jordy Barley -- had been dealt to the Nationals in exchange for Daniel Hudson. Thompson made his MLB debut in June, but he spent the majority of his career in the Minor Leagues.

“There's definitely nerves coming over to a new team and a new organization,” said Thompson prior to Monday’s game. “A lot of high expectations and everything. But at the same time, making my debut earlier this year was definitely helpful. It's helped ease the nerves a lot and kind of ease me into the transition. … I'm excited to be here. They've welcomed me with open arms. And it's been ... a lot of fun so far.”

Since joining the Nats on Saturday, Thompson had some time to settle in before throwing his first pitch. It’s gave him the opportunity to figure out expectations and catch up with catcher Tres Barrera, who he’s known for a few years.

“It's a little bit of both,” Thompson said regarding whether he would have rather pitched right away. “You like to come in and get to know the guys and be around the group, and just kind of take it in the ballpark and everything. But at the same time, you're hoping to get in there and contribute. So overall, it's been a good, a great couple of days just hanging out to be around the guys.”

Stat lines and pressure aren’t something Thompson likes to think about. Rather, he sees this fresh start as an opportunity to make an impact. Joining a team that was a seller at the Trade Deadline, Thompson knows that fans and the front office are hoping that it works out. So that is the only expectation that he has set for himself: prove them right.

“Hopefully, at the end of the day, they'll be saying that we were as good, or hopefully better than, the group that they sent out,” Thompson said. “I know that's a tall, tall order, but I think that's what all of us strive for. All of us are hoping that we can fulfill their expectations.”