For the first month of the season, Double A Frisco right-hander Jake Thompson was inconsistent, to put it mildly.
The top prospect in the Texas Rangers’ organization would follow a seven-inning shutout with a run-filled, early exit in his next outing. He hit a nadir in consecutive starts on May 9 and 15 when he allowed a combined 11 earned runs on 12 hits with just three strikeouts.
Since then, Thompson has been everything the Rangers hoped when they traded Joakim Soria to the Tigers for Thompson and Corey Knebel in July 2014.
In Thompson’s past 40 innings, he’s allowed eight runs and struck out 40. The turnaround hasn’t surprised Thompson, who attended Rockwall Heath High School.
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“I was more surprised at the beginning of the year when I struggled,” he said. “It’s a bunch of different things finally coming together.”
That starts with fastball command, said Thompson, who walked five in his last start on Thursday, but still struck out five and held Corpus Christi to two runs on three hits in six innings. He’s also not relying so heavily on his slider, his best pitch.
Thompson, 21, has gone at least six innings in his past six starts. He credits fastball command for making his secondary pitches, including a slider, a curveball and changeup more effective. He’s lowered his ERA to 3.75 in 72 innings.
“Being able to throw my fastball where I want to,” he said. “It’s opened up the door for a couple of my other pitches.”
The key for Thompson, Frisco pitching coach Jeff Andrews said, has been learning more ways to get hitters out besides the slider.
“It takes a while for guys to see that,” Andrews said. “So credit to him that he’s experimented with it, because it’s hard when you’re having success to try something new, or to try to add something. He’s listened to logic. If you end up trying to throw 40 sliders in a game you’ll break and you’ll never pitch in the big leagues.”
Before the big leagues, of course, the next stop for Thompson is Triple A Round Rock, which is likely to come this summer.
“I’m not really worried about it. I’m just trying to get better while I’m here and if they move me, they move me,” he said.
The slider remains potent for Thompson, even more so, in some respects, because he’s mixing it up a little more sparingly. Andrews said the changeup makes Thompson more effective and able to go deeper in starts.
“He’s refined his game,” Andrews said. “He’s opened himself up to more ideas about pitching and he’s taken to them. If he keeps pitching like this there’s no reason why he shouldn’t pitch anywhere he wants to.”
Stefan Stevenson, 817-390-7760