White Sox reliever Thornton can't shake bad luck

White Sox reliever Thornton can't shake bad luck
June 17, 2013, 8:45 pm
Share This Post

HOUSTON -- There’s no doubt Matt Thornton needed to better command a slider to Jason Castro in the ninth inning on Sunday afternoon.

He knows the pitch wasn’t placed where he’d like.

But the White Sox veteran also thinks he’s been dealing with bad luck for a while now, and had the at-bat taken place in any other park Castro would have wound up with a long fly out to left. Instead, Castro hit a two-run home run -- one that was estimated at 329 feet, but landed in the first row right by the 315-foot sign on the fence.

Thornton’s numbers versus left-handed hitters suggest his assertion of bad luck has some merit. Castro’s homer was the third hit by a lefty batter in 42 at-bats this season off Thornton even though left-handers have only seven hits.

“Ever since they named me the closer in the spring of 2011 it seems like I haven’t exactly got a lot of breaks,” Thornton said. “But that’s part of the grind. You come back and keep on going and attacking guys and I’m going to give up runs, give up hits, I know that. But it’s about minimizing and bouncing back the next day.”

[SportsTalk Live: Who's better between White Sox and Cubs?]

Of those three homers allowed, Thornton doesn’t have any issue with the one Adam LaRoche planted in the seats on April 9 at Nationals Park.

“(LaRoche) smoked that fastball,” Thornton said.

But the other two -- Castro’s and an opposite-field, wind-aided homer hit by Michael Saunders at U.S. Cellular Field on April 6 -- Thornton thinks poor luck played a role in both spots. Still, Thornton said he hasn’t dwelled on it because he knows his role is to be prepared to pitch every day.

“Against Saunders, my hat ended up in their dugout, but the ball got blown out where (Alejandro) De Aza said he was waiting for it and it kept on going, going,” Thornton said. “It happens. I don’t care about giving up homers. I’m not scared of giving up homers. I throw strikes so I’m going to give up homers. But it’s kind of funny how it’s happened this year.”

Pitching coach Don Cooper agreed to an extent but said Thornton must be better with his location.

“You’ve got to be down,” Cooper said. “Obviously that ball couldn’t have been down as much as we wanted it. It left the yard. Down might be a ground ball, might be a single. Matt Thornton has had an outstanding career with the White Sox. He’s provided a lot of years of good service. That’s noted and appreciated for sure and he’s got more to do.”

Thornton -- who has a $6 million team option for 2014 with a $1 million buyout -- could be valuable to a contending team down the stretch were the White Sox to become sellers. He envisions himself as an all-around pitcher and not just a left-handed specialist.

But were a team in the need for a lefty, Thornton could provide a boost.

This season’s numbers against lefties are even better than his career totals. The increased home run-rate aside, opposing hitters’ .620 OPS against Thornton in 2013 is 27 points lower than his career mark. Opposing hitters' batting average against also is down to .167 in 2013, from .229 for his career.