CHICAGO -- Jake Thompson needs answers and he needs them badly. Right now, he is coming up empty.
Thompson got hit hard again Wednesday night in a 9-1 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. He allowed seven runs in five innings as he fell to 1-3 with a 9.78 ERA through four big league starts. He is tied with Alec Asher for the second-highest ERA in franchise history for a pitcher who started his first four big league games.
Only Mike Maddux fared worse. He posted a 9.98 ERA through four starts in 1986.
"I don't really have the answer right now to fix it," Thompson said. "I feel I'm certainly a lot better than my performance has indicated."
Certainly Thompson had been billed as much better than this, ranking as the Phillies' fifth-best prospect and No. 66 across baseball. A key piece in the Cole Hamels trade with Texas in July 2015, Thompson went 8-0 with a 1.21 ERA in his final 11 starts this year with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, solidifying his status as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. He struck out 42 and walked 18 in 74 1/3 innings with the IronPigs. But in 19 1/3 innings with the Phillies, he has allowed 22 hits, 21 runs, 13 walks and five home runs. He has struck out 13.
He has retired the side in order just five times in the 20 innings he has started.
He threw first-pitch strikes to just 11 of the 25 White Sox batters he faced.
"I'm not used to this," Thompson said. "The issue is pretty evident. I'm not throwing strikes, and when I am throwing strikes, they're not good strikes. It's coming back to the drawing board and figuring it out a little bit."
Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he expects Thompson to remain in the rotation, adding that he needs to speak with general manager Matt Klentak about it. But Mackanin is concerned that if Thompson keeps pitching and struggling, he could lose his confidence, which could set him back.
"He looks like a confident kid, but at some point it doesn't always mean he has that confidence just because he looks confident," Mackanin said. "You know, he's 22 years old and this is a big event in his life."
"How many guys do you see come to the big leagues at 22 years old and just flat-out dominate every time they go out?" he said. "There's not very many. He's young. It was his first time in Triple-A this year and he pitched really well, and now he's got a chance in the big leagues. I'm sure he feels like there's pressure. When you come up and you pitch so well all year and then you finally get your opportunity, you want to impress. It puts a lot on you. And as a kid, you've got to be able to control it, and it's tough, it's hard. It's hard to go through. It's something that's going to make him better when he does finally figure it out and overcomes some of the rough patches he's having."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.