Corey Thompson played 56 professional baseball games before he made his first start at second base Thursday night. It was a bit of an adventure.
The Billings Mustangs infielder was taken out on a hard slide by Missoula’s Maik Ehmcke, which led to an error and an Osprey run; had to backpedal and ended up on his backside on a catch of Kevin Cron’s pop up; and was part of a trio of fielders who nearly collided on another short pop.
But the fifth-round draft pick from 2013 also had a hand in turning two double plays as the Mustangs defeated the Osprey 5-4 in front of 2,568 fans at Dehler Park.
Thompson’s move to second base — all but two of his previous starts, 48 of which came last year in the Arizona League last season and eight so far this year in the Pioneer League, were at shortstop — was brought about by the recent arrival of Stanford shortstop Alex Blandino, the supplemental first-rounder drafted by the Cincinnati Reds this season.
“I’ve been playing short all my life,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t too bad tonight. It’s a little different. (Manager Dick Schofield) told me I’m going to be playing everywhere … short, second, DH some. So I’m just going to keep working.”
No matter if the move is temporary or long-term, Thompson probably couldn’t be under much better tutelage. Schofield was a major-league infielder for 14 seasons, and knows both positions well.
“Everything is backwards” switching from shortstop to second base, Schofield said. “I thought the switch would be really easy and it wasn’t. Then I played a few games at second and really liked it. … But he did a great job. He turned one and did a nice job starting the other. He’s just a really good athlete. He’ll be over there quite a bit depending on how things play out here.”
And as it stands now, Schofield and the Mustangs, who have the worst batting average in the league, need to keep Thompson’s bat in the lineup. He went 2-for-4 with two doubles Thursday, and he’s hitting .316 overall with two home runs and five RBIs.
“The barrel of his bat just seems to stay in the zone forever,” Schofield said. “I just have to try to keep running him out there. He’s done an outstanding job.”
“Right now I’m just feeling really good at the plate,” said the 19-year-old Thompson, who batted .266 last season with the AZL Reds. “It’s good right now, but it can be better.”
In what regard?
“Going 4-for-4 every night,” he said with a laugh.
KEY MOMENT: For a team which had lost three in a row — two of them in the ninth inning — Brennan Bernardino provided the Mustangs some relief, striking out Cron with the tying run on third base to end the game and earn his first save. Bernardino hasn’t allowed an earned run in his four appearances.
ON THE MOUND: On the day starter Jose Guzman started his 10-game suspension for having a foreign substance on his belt during Wednesday’s game, the Mustangs had no surprises like that from their staff. Wyatt Strahan, Seth Varner (1-0), Jefry Sierra and Bernadino combined to pitch around four errors, and allowed just one earned run. Two games ago the Mustangs had just 10 errors; they’ve committed nine in their last two games. “Unfortunately, that’s going to happen, but you don’t want it to,” Schofield said. “It’s consistency down here. It comes and goes. It kind of went the last two nights. You just go out there and play. Tomorrow night we might look like all-stars.”
AT THE PLATE: Argenis Aldazaro also had a two-hit night for the Mustangs. He drove in a run in the second inning with a single and later added a double and scored the tie-breaking run on Ty Washington’s single in the sixth. The Mustangs sent 10 batters to the plate in the second inning when they scored four runs on just two hits. Missoula had 10 hits, but couldn’t string enough together to take advantage of the Mustangs’ miscues.
ON DECK: Billings (5-5) begins a four-game series at home Friday night against the Helena Brewers (4-6). Though the Brewers have the top two hitters in the league in Dustin DeMuth (.484) and Greg McCall (.393), they are hitting just .257 as a team. Only the Mustangs (.253) are below them.