ANAHEIM, Calif. — The walk is lonely for a pitcher after he is humbled, and that is what baseball did Wednesday night to Jake Thompson. The Angels scored seven runs in the third inning. The Phillies righthander threw 35 pitches. Three of them traveled a combined 1,270 feet in the air. They were not cheap home runs in a 7-0 blowout.
He descended the dugout steps at Angel Stadium. A coach, then two teammates patted him on the butt. Thompson removed his hat, buried his face in a towel, and stared straight ahead. He was once a regarded pitching prospect in the Phillies system, one of the key pieces in a trade for Cole Hamels, and his stock has fallen.
"It's part of the process," Thompson said. "You take your bumps and bruises along the way. You have to grow. You can't get scared and back down from it. I'm certainly not. I feel that eventually I'm going to be a successful major-league pitcher. It was just one of those nights."
Thompson permitted seven runs, two of which were earned. A Cesar Hernandez error on a routine grounder that would have been the second out of the inning altered the calculus of Thompson's ERA. But that did not diminish the damage. The Angels battered Thompson.
The 23-year-old pitcher is a reminder that trades are not often what they appear to be at first evaluation. The same could be said for J.C. Ramirez, the tall Nicaraguan righthander who silenced the Phillies for eight innings. Ramirez was once traded in 2009 for Cliff Lee. The Phillies hoped he could develop into a big-league piece.
His total contribution to the Phillies was 24 innings of a 7.50 ERA in a forgettable 2013 cameo. The Phillies removed him from the roster. He bounced to Arizona, Seattle, Cincinnati and — finally — Anaheim. He fired accurate 96-mph fastballs Wednesday night. It was impressive. Now, at 28, Ramirez has found a secure spot in a major-league rotation. He has a 4.03 ERA in 129 2/3 innings this season.
It takes some players more time to achieve their potential.
The Phillies have some options if they do not want to continue with Thompson in their current rotation. They could skip his next turn; a scheduled day off Monday would permit that. They could reinsert Mark Leiter Jr., currently in the bullpen, into the rotation. They could circle back to Zach Eflin or Ben Lively, both of whom are starting at triple-A Lehigh Valley. Lively was struck on his knee by a liner in his last start; he should soon return to the IronPigs' rotation.
Or the Phillies could stick with Thompson, who was good in his first start and bad in his second one.
"We'll talk about that," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I'm not sure. We'll see what we've got."
The Angels, last in the American League in runs scored, swung and missed Wednesday night at just three of Thompson's 92 pitches. Thompson has struck out 43 batters and walked 36 in his first 68 2/3 major-league innings. That must improve if he is to remain here.
Mike Trout clobbered a Thompson fastball into the bushes, 420 feet from home plate. "The fastball, Trout hits that out nine times out of 10 in that count," Thompson said. It was his first homer against the club he supported before the Angels drafted him.
Andrelton Simmons singled to center and scored Albert Pujols, who ran as if something large was strapped to his back, from second base. Pitching coach Bob McClure visited the mound. The first pitch Thompson threw after that was a hanging slider. C.J. Cron hit it 443 feet into the left-field stands. Kaleb Cowart followed with a 407-foot homer to center on a 90-mph Thompson fastball.
"It was a horrible inning," Thompson said.