The San Diego Padres have had few bright spots so far this year, plagued by injures throughout the organization, with many on the active 25-man roster. Without going down the laundry list of players, I’ll focus on one potential future piece who is rather intriguing. With so many injuries, you often find players who would not usually be in the roles they’re in now. That brings me to Dale Thayer.
The Padres signed the grisly right-handed pitcher in December to a minor-league deal, with a major-league invite. His showing in spring training was very impressive, and management took note. If not for other pitchers higher on the depth chart, he may have broke camp with the team. Thayer, 30, a former Padres farm hand who spent 2003-2006 in the Padres organization, has filled in very handsomely while Huston Street recovers from a right lat strain. Thayer has always had respectable numbers but has never had a chance on a regular basis. With Street on the shelf, he was thrown into the fire, due to a plethora of injuries, as the Padres closer.
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Because the Padres are grooming Andrew Cashner as the set-up man and potential future closer, there were few options. In 11 games last year with the New York Mets, Thayer went 0-3 while posing a 3.48 ERA in 10.1 innings pitched. He also had a brief stint in 2009-2010 with Tampa Bay. His career minor league resume is impressive. Before the start of the 2012 campaign, Thayer (over nine seasons) had logged and impressive 2.49 ERA in 568.1 innings pitched, along with a very noticeable career strikeout (8.8 SO/9) to walk ratio (2.8 BB/9) while having some closing experience.
Thayer has not disappointed this year. In fact, quite the contrary, he’s been lights out and could be a permanent fixture in the Padres bullpen. Before his promotion to the big-league club this year, Thayer was dominant with the Padres triple-A affiliate. He had not allowed a run in 8.1 innings pitched, and he notched five strikeouts, with opponents only hitting a meager .074 against (albeit a small sample size). This year, he has been perfect in save opportunities with five in 10 innings pitched, with 10 strikeout and no runs allowed. Suffice it to say, he has earned a spot in the Padres pen.
Street is currently throwing and continuing to rehab, so it begs the question: Where does Thayer fit when Street comes back? With the rash of injuries this year, not only to the Padres but all around baseball, the closer role is already in high demand, and the Padres could use Street as a chip for the right price come the trade deadline.
When Street comes back, Thayer will slide into a different role, presumably the sixth-inning guy, before Luke Gregerson, who has been locking down the seventh inning since 2009, and Cashner in the eighth. Well, at least until the July 31 trade deadline. It is very possible for the Padres, during a transition year, to ride Thayer out in hopes of bringing back another player of necessity for Street. In that scenario, it is possible to see Thayer back in the closer role, and possibly even into the offseason, until the Padres further season their young relief core.