Four new players joined the Hickory Crawdads this week. Two games in, each member of the quartet has contributed to the lineup as the Crawdads won the first two games of the current three-game series against Columbia (S.C.).
On Wednesday, Cristian Inoa walked with the bases loaded and scored during a six-run sixth, then one inning later he singled and scored. Austin O’Banion started the same sixth inning on Wednesday with a single and last night he reached three times, including two singles, and stole a base.
However, the big names to join the Crawdads were first baseman Tyreque Reed and 2017 first-round pick Bubba Thompson, who will play center.
Reed made his presence felt on the team immediately. His first at-bat on Wednesday was in a pinch-hitting role to lead off the ninth. On a 2-1 pitch, Reed hit a one-iron like shot that carried over the fence off the Pepsi sign in left center that gave the Crawdads a walk-off 11-10 victory.
“It felt great,” said Reed of his heroics. “I was great being out here and getting called up. When I got my chance, it was great to do something good.”
After putting up big numbers in the Arizona Summer League in 2017 (.350/.455/.617 in 35 games) Reed is expected to provide pop in the middle of the lineup.
The Rangers eighth-round pick in 2017 out of Itawamba Community College (MS) was expected initially to join the team out of spring training. However, with three good catching prospects on the Crawdads roster that needed at-bats – and thereby rotating at first and DH-ing – Reed had to bide his time at extended spring in Arizona.
“Definitely disappointed not to be here at the start,” Reed responded when asked about staying back at Surprise, AZ. Yet, rather than sulk, the took the time to sharpen his skills. “I knew there were some areas I needed to work on and I’m glad I stayed back and got them polished up.”
Reed said he specifically worked on his defense at first and is expecting to make his first start there on Friday.
Last, but certainly not least, is Leslie A. Thompson, otherwise known as Bubba. Thursday night, he joined Reed in the home-run column with a line shot down the right field line and the ball found a pocket in the corner just over the RF fence. He added a double that one-hopped the center field fence to bring in a run. So far in two games, Thompson is 4-for-9.
Crawdads manager Matt Hagen has positive reviews of the 19-year-old, thus far.
“From a player’s perspective, you get the call to come out of Arizona and you get the opportunity to come play at night in front of fans,” said Hagen. “That’s pretty energizing in itself. Sometimes, it can be a bit overwhelming for guys, because it’s new. But it doesn’t seem to faze Bubba at all.”
In the initial look, Thompson appears to have the ability to cover the plate quite well. On Wednesday, Thompson singled to left and later in the game, he stayed on a 1-2 curveball and got enough on it to steer it into the 3-4 hole and into right. Thursday’s homer was a fastball off the plate and the double was a fastball that caught the heart of the plate.
“I try to work on that kind of stuff in the cage, so I can hit both sides of the plate,” Thompson said of his early success. “Tonight, I just trusted my eyes and my hands and I ended up hitting a home run the other way.”
Like Reed, Thompson was also disappointed not to be on the Crawdads opening-day roster. In an interview in April, Rangers general manager said Thompson was recovering from a minor knee injury from last year.
Thompson said he feels well and, like Reed, used the time to hone skills.
“I also needed a little help on my defense here and there,” said Thompson. “So, I think that time back there helped me and now I’m ready to lock and load. I’m healthy and I’m just ready to win some games.”
In an interview after Thursday night’s win, Hagen was in full agreement with his center fielder.
“I think getting some new blood in helped. It’s always invigorating when new guys come in and they contributed right away, which is great.”