Thorpe deals six scoreless in 'great outing' for 1st MLB victory

June 22nd, 2024

DETROIT -- The fact that MLB’s No. 54 prospect was still standing on the hill at Comerica Park to start the sixth inning was in itself something of a feat.

Thorpe had already thrown 84 pitches in the 90-plus-degree heat. The White Sox were ahead by five runs. It was just Thorpe’s third MLB start, and the last one hadn’t gone so well. Oh, and Chicago’s No. 3 prospect was facing the heart of the Tigers’ order for the third time.

“I think that was a real good developmental moment for him to go back out there and get those three outs,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “It was big, no doubt. Not only for him, but for us.”

Thorpe opened the frame with reliever Justin Anderson warming in the ’pen. After a six-pitch walk to No. 3 hitter Riley Greene, though, the righty rebounded to coax cleanup hitter Mark Canha into a double play before getting Gio Urshela to ground out on the next pitch.

At 10 pitches, the inning was his shortest of the day, but it spoke the loudest. If that final frame was a test, Thorpe passed with flying colors during the White Sox 5-1 victory to even the series at one game apiece heading into Sunday’s rubber match.

It also handed Thorpe his first career win, rightfully earned after six scoreless innings in which he allowed just two hits, walked four and struck out five.

“It's just kind of a learning curve, and I'll get over it with more innings and more outings here,” Thorpe said.

When Thorpe took the hill Saturday against the Tigers at Comerica Park, he was pitching to prove he belonged. The righty already had an excellent MLB debut and a not-so-great follow-up under his belt, and he was ready to make his third start the one that showed he was worth keeping around.

“We all knew that his stuff played here,” said catcher Korey Lee, who hit his seventh homer of the season in the sixth inning. “It was just a matter of time with him coming up here and getting comfortable and solidifying the fact that it does work up here.

“I believe that this was a great outing for him to build forward from.”

Earlier that day, Grifol spoke in general terms about the risk involved with leaving young players up versus sending them to the Minors to make adjustments. The 23-year-old Thorpe hasn’t been up long enough to draw either long-term predictions or short-term concerns, but with such a small sample size, each start is under a microscope.

“I don't think that you bring up a player from the Minor Leagues for the first time and just say, ‘Here, you're a big leaguer no matter what,’ because this is a tough league,” Grifol said.

To his credit, so far, Thorpe seems like a tough guy. He didn’t read too much into Sunday’s rocky second start, when he was tagged for eight runs (seven earned) and walked five over 3 1/3 innings in a 12-5 loss to the D-backs.

To call it one of the worst starts of Thorpe’s professional career is accurate, but it’s also absurd: Thorpe faced the Tigers on Saturday with just 20 combined career starts across all professional levels.

Thorpe has plenty of talent and a good head on his shoulders, but Major League Baseball is quite a leap from Double-A -- the highest level he reached before his June 11 promotion to the White Sox -- and an even bigger bound from the college level, where he was still competing in 2022.

None of that showed in Detroit, though.

“As the game went on, he definitely started liking his changeup more, and we had trouble adjusting to the drop in velocity from the fastball,” said Tigers leadoff hitter Matt Vierling, who finished 1-for-5. “[It was] obviously frustrating for all of us that we couldn't make that adjustment."

Thorpe’s offense backed him with 12 hits. Paul DeJong’s RBI single got Chicago on the board in the fourth, and teammate Nicky Lopez doubled him home later in the inning.

The White Sox plated another run in the fifth on Andrew Vaughn’s team-leading 35th RBI, and Chicago tagged on two more in the sixth with Lee’s solo homer and an RBI single from Lenyn Sosa to go ahead 5-0.

Justin Anderson, John Brebbia and Michael Kopech came in from the bullpen and closed out the game with three combined innings of one-run ball.