A cold weather player in a warm weather city is a recipe for disaster. But Mike Thompson reached a turning point in his career in the humid air of Mobile.
Mike Thompson had never gone a full season with an ERA under 4.42. In fact, he had four seasons where his ERA topped 5.00. That is, until 2004 came around.
The former fifth round pick went 10-2 with a 3.41 ERA pitching for the Mobile BayBears last season and is looking to build upon the success.
“He is a guy who we have always put out there and he always manages to do just well enough,” Tye Waller, the Padres Director of Player Development, remarked. “We always thought there was more there. That is why we kept giving him opportunities.”
His first 17 games of the season came in relief, a spot that wasn’t very common to Thompson. But he performed well, owning a 3.07 ERA in 23.1 innings of work. When the opportunity arose, Thompson was inserted back into the starting rotation when Steve Watkins was moved and he responded by winning his first five decisions.
“This year he worked his way out of the bullpen, found an opening and took it and ran with it,” said Waller.
Inside the 10-2 season, there is some concern.
The leadoff hitter batted .397 off him and he allowed 12 homers in 18 starts, including four multi-homer games. For the year, hitters batted .285 off him and his WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) was 1.32. There were also four innings where the opposition hit over .300 against him.
Then there is the magic of the season. He may have allowed them on base but he limited their success by allowing a .240 average with runners in scoring position.
On June 24, Thompson went seven innings and surrendered just one hit and one walk. In ten of his 18 starts, he allowed two runs or fewer.
“He is a guy that throws strikes, he changes speeds, he hits spots and a lot of guys can get it done when they do it over and over,” Waller said. “He was kind of like Gabe Ribas used to be. Hopefully he can continue that.”
Thompson will likely repeat the year in Mobile since it was his first year with some success. The critical factor to his success will be his ability to get ahead in the count and keep the opposition off base. If he continues to allow men on base at a high clip, it may be hard for him to have the same success again.