Trayce's homecoming provides spark Dodgers were hoping for

Outfielder makes most of second stint in LA, smacks 3-run homer in club's 50th win

July 5th, 2022

LOS ANGELES -- Trayce Thompson says he remembers it like it was yesterday. It was July 3, 2016, and Thompson was rounding the bases at Dodger Stadium after taking former Rockies starter Jon Gray deep for his 13th home run of the season. 

At the time, Thompson was establishing himself as a fan favorite and a legit Major League player. Since then, Thompson’s rise has been interrupted by a major back injury that prevented him from getting back to his top form. In the last six years, Thompson has played for eight organizations, trying to find that magic once again. 

Thompson’s journey brought him back to the Dodgers two weeks ago. He’s around the teammates who once saw him succeed and know his capabilities. Clayton Kershaw even gave him some harsh -- but honest -- criticism after Thompson chased too many balls out of the zone. 

It’s been a long road for Thomspon, but for the first time in six years, he was rounding the bases at Dodger Stadium once again after he smashed a go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth inning of the Dodgers’ 5-3 win over the Rockies on Monday.

“Six years have gone by really fast,” Thompson said. “It’s always special to wear this uniform. I’m just very appreciative and trying to make the most of every opportunity.” 

For 4 1/3 innings, the Dodgers’ offense was held without a baserunner against Rockies’ starter Kyle Freeland. Luckily for the Dodgers, Julio Urías was just as sharp, allowing one run over six innings and lowering his season ERA to 2.57.

After scoring one run on Sunday, it appeared the Dodgers might be headed for another quiet night at the plate. But after a Justin Turner single and a Chris Taylor walk, Thompson was set up for the first big scoring chance of the night. He delivered by smacking a 3-2 slider over the left-field wall to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. Thompson’s homer had an exit velocity of 106.6 mph and traveled 379 feet, according to Statcast.

“He threw me a first-pitch slider. I thought it was a pretty good pitch to hit, but I missed it,” Thompson said. “Actually chased that pitch, 3-1. But I feel like he threw me so many, by the time he threw me that 3-2 one -- he left it over the middle of the plate -- I felt pretty comfortable with it.”

Thompson mentioned his gratitude to the Dodgers for his second stint with the organization. He also mentioned that he’s learned a lot from Dodgers’ first baseman Freddie Freeman. But Los Angeles has also been appreciative of what the 31-year-old outfielder has provided over the last two weeks.

“He’s been a spark,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “He’s mentioned where it’s been a full-circle moment and he feels comfortable being around a lot of guys and coaches that he’s familiar with. He’s come in and immediately made an impact.”

Just a few weeks ago, Thompson wasn’t supposed to be on this Dodgers team. Once Mookie Betts suffered a broken rib on June 15, the Dodgers were suddenly in the market for a right-handed-hitting outfielder.

Thompson was raking for the Tigers’ Triple-A team, but was blocked by the team’s young outfielders. Earlier in the season, Thompson was designated for assignment by the Padres. He had struggled to find a runway in the Majors. But because the Dodgers were familiar with Thompson, they decided to make the call to Detroit and acquired him for cash considerations.

It was a move that flew under the radar. The Dodgers were hoping Thompson would provide a spark, but they didn’t know what they were getting. But through 13 games back in Los Angeles. Thompson has looked just as comfortable as he did six years ago, hitting two homers and posting a .885 OPS.

“I’m thrilled for him,” said Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor, who left the game in the fifth inning with left ankle swelling. “I played with Trayce in 2016. The guy is a first-class teammate. He works his [butt] off every day. He’s a true professional. Everybody loves him. We’re thrilled to have him in the clubhouse and I’m really happy to see his hard work paying off.”