'Can't overthink this one:' Thorpe has rough start vs. D-backs

June 17th, 2024

PHOENIX -- The big league development trail for even top young pitchers such as , the No. 3 White Sox prospect and No. 54 overall, inevitably will have some potholes to navigate.

Thorpe hit one of those bumps Sunday. He followed up a solid Major League debut Tuesday with one of his worst starts in the last two seasons at any level during a 12-5 loss to Arizona at Chase Field.

This performance was viewed as one bad start by White Sox manager Pedro Grifol and Thorpe, as opposed to looking too deeply into the right-hander’s second Major League trip to the mound.

“Who doesn’t have bad starts up here?” Grifol said. “Hall of Famers lose 300 games, win 300 games. You’ve got to be mentally strong. 'This is part of it and I’m going to get to work now for the next four, five days and I’m going to get ready for my next start.' You’ve got to make adjustments, adapt, continue to improve. That’s it.”

“I beat myself, right?” Thorpe said. “Just kind of didn’t have my best stuff. I didn’t have my best command, obviously. It’s pretty hard to work around it when you don’t have it with the stuff I have. I need to get better for next time and flush this one.”

In 3 1/3 innings, Thorpe (0-1) allowed eight runs (seven earned) on six hits with five walks and no strikeouts. He recorded two swings and misses among his 60 pitches, with his four-seam fastball topping out at 91.9 mph, per Statcast.

Although he’s known for having one of the top changeups in the Minor Leagues, Thorpe threw the fastball 30 times as he was consistently working behind in the count, compared to 16 changeups. Arizona scored one in the third after a three-run, first-inning outburst and knocked out Thorpe with a six-run fourth against both the rookie and reliever Chad Kuhl.

“My fastball sets everything else up, and it was all over the place today,” Thorpe said. “Clearly, I’m going to struggle. It’s a different animal up here. It’s good to get it out of the way and move on, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

“He’s gotta be able to pitch and command the strike zone,” Grifol said. “That’s going to be his bread and butter. That’s going to be how he performs at this level. If that’s a little off, then he’s going to have to make some adjustments, and if it’s way off like today, he’ll struggle a little bit.”

Thorpe’s next start is Saturday afternoon in Detroit, although no official White Sox probables have been listed beyond the upcoming Houston series at Guaranteed Rate Field. Poise, preparation and overall pitch ability aren’t an issue for this 23-year-old, who put together a 7-1 record with a 1.35 ERA for Double-A Birmingham before joining the ‘24 White Sox.

Senior advisor to pitching Brian Bannister, who has watched Thorpe, spoke of those traits one day before the Diamondbacks’ shellacking.

“He looks like a veteran just the way he can be composed,” Bannister said. “He’s out there with very limited pro experience, but he has an elite changeup. He gets after his velocity, but he can run it up a bit. The thing I like about him is his poise, the hidden arm action.

“I just love how he goes about his work. He’s very hard on himself in the 'pen as far as execution, so he’ll keep getting better and better because he has the whole arsenal. As he understands these hitters, we’ll wait to see their adjustment to him, and once that happens, we’ll have to adjust back. He’s still young and getting his feet wet, but he’s got a lot of exciting tools.”

San Diego traded Thorpe as part of a Spring Training deal, sending Dylan Cease to the Padres and bringing back fellow young hurler Jairo Iriarte and 19-year-old outfielder Samuel Zavala, along with veteran reliever Steven Wilson. Iriarte is working at Double-A Birmingham as part of a top-notch rotation for the Southern League North-leading Barons and his big league chance might come this season.

For now, the challenge in the face of adversity falls upon Thorpe.

“If you watch this kid pitch over and over and over again, he throws strikes with all his pitches,” Grifol said. “He’s a good competitor, so you can’t overthink this one.”