Padres Player Spotlight: Dale Thayer


Dale Thayer certainly did not take the easy road to the major leagues. He signed as an amateur free agent with the San Diego Padres in 2002. He had initially been drafted in the 47th round by the Chicago Cubs in 1999 but the Cubs failed to sign him. No doubt Thayer assumed he would be up in the majors in no time.

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Thayer came up as a closer and pitched quite well. Closing 25 games his first season in A ball at the age of 22 and pitching to a 2.06 ERA. In 2006 he kept climbing through the ranks and made it to AAA, pitching in 72 2/3 innings and closing 27 games for the second year in a row.

It was starting to look like he might soon make that career jump to the major leagues. Then that off-season, he was part of the Russel Branyan trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Branyon would go on to hit 13 homers for the Padres between the end of 2006 and the 2007 seasons before leaving the team.

Meanwhile, Dale Thayer finally got the call to the big leagues in 2009 and pitched in 11 games for the Rays, even collecting his first major league save.

Unfortunately, 2010 saw him bounce back down to the minor leagues and making only one token appearance for the parent club, pitching 2 innings and allowing 6 runs. He was granted free agency after the season ended and signed with the New York Mets for the 2011 season.

He got back to work with the Mets, closing  21 games in AAA and appearing in over 81 innings between AAA and the major leagues. At the end of the season he was granted free agency again and signed back with his original team, the Padres.

Soon after, he was called on to pitch in the majors again for the Padres to fill in for their injured closer, Heath Bell, closing 7 games when given the opportunity. He became known for his determination on the mound as well as his magnificent mustache.

As many of the names in the bullpen have changed for the seasons, Thayer finds himself the most tenured relief pitcher for the Padres along with Nick Vincent, who also started pitching for the Padres in 2012.

Thayer is expected to be the seventh inning guy, a role he embraced last season and had his finest year yet as a professional, posting a 2.34 ERA and a WHIP of just 1.056.

Recently he won his arbitration case with the Padres and will earn a much deserved $1.375M this season, helping to rope in the newcomers and teach them the way of the Padres bullpen.

Thayer is an important part of the Padres bullpen as he rarely gets hurt and just does what is asked of him. His numbers prove that he can close, yet he has never complained about not closing as he watched the Padres cycle through arms from Heath Bell to Huston Street, to Joaquin Benoit and closer-in-waiting Kevin Quackenbush.

He is a key cog in what was the brightest part of the Padres in 2014, a bullpen with an ERA second only to the Seattle Mariners.

The Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants both proved how valuable a quality bullpen is in the post-season, just as the Detroit Tigers prove every year how much the best starting pitching in the world means nothing if you can’t finish the games.

With all the talk of the new Padres offense, let’s hope the bullpen keeps chugging along making games shorter for opposing teams and holding those new-found Padre leads.

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