After several months spent recovering from multiple fractured vertebrae, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Trayce Thompson is expected to make his 2017 Spring Training debut on Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Thompson last played in a game on July 10, 2016.
“I’m doing everything besides playing in games,” Thompson recently said. “I feel good, I’m ready to go.” He began to feel discomfort in his back last May, then is believed to have made the injury worse in July after running into the fence during a game against the Baltimore Orioles.
He appeared in 39 consecutive games from May 31 through July 10. “It was tough. Probably the hardest thing I’ve gone through in my career,” Thompson said of the injury.
“But, everything happens for a reason. It definitely made me stronger mentally. And it was a long rehab process, so I’ve definitely got stronger physically in a lot of areas.”
In January, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the club mindful of Thompson’s value for the regular season, and thus was taking a cautious approach with his rehab process. “We expect him at some point in Spring Training to be full-go,” Friedman said at the time.
Acquired by the Dodgers in the December 2015 three-team, seven-player trade with the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds, Thompson became a mainstay in the Dodgers lineup last spring. Manager Dave Roberts regularly lauded the athletic outfielder for his versatility and at-bat quality.
Andre Ethier’s injury created an opportunity for Thompson, and he took full advantage. Eventually playing his way into a regular role, Thompson batted .225/.302/.436 with 11 doubles, 13 home runs, 32 RBI, a .318 wOBA and 100 wRC+ while appearing in career-high 80 games last season.
He swung the bat particularly well in 21 games (18 starts) throughout May, hitting .270/.352/.603 with six home runs and 14 RBI, leading the Dodgers in several offensive categories during the month.
Thompson spent time in center field (32 games; 26 starts), right field (28;22) and left field (24;13). How he fits into the Dodgers outfield picture this season isn’t clear.
The organization is providing Yasiel Puig with every opportunity to secure a starting job in right field, which would leave Thompson as part of the competition to start in left field, or to play a backup role at any of the outfield positions.