- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The marriage that many local baseball fans have long awaited for could be on the cusp of taking place.
Southern Maryland's best homegrown talent this millennium might suit up for Southern Maryland's professional baseball franchise.
Hughesville native Daryl Thompson, an eighth-round selection of the then-Montreal Expos, now the Washington Nationals, in the 2003 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft shortly after graduating from La Plata High School that year, was offered a contract by the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs on Saturday.
As of Monday afternoon, the Blue Crabs had yet to hear from the former Cincinnati Reds pitcher about accepting their offer.
Thompson could not be reached for comment on Monday.
After getting two stints in the big leagues with the Reds in 2008 and as recent as last year, the 26-year-old power right-hander confirmed last Monday that he was no longer with a major league organization while he attended a District 7 title game involving his childhood Hughesville Little League team in Indian Head.
Over the weekend, the talk of the converging paths of Thompson and the Blue Crabs became reality. He threw bullpen sessions on Friday and Saturday to give the Blue Crabs a firsthand look at his ability.
The Blue Crabs were impressed and believe Thompson could climb his way back to the affiliated minors and possibly return to the majors by thriving in their uniform in the Atlantic League, which regularly attracts the watchful eye of big league scouts.
“I told him, 'You're 26 years old, you pitched in the big leagues last year. You need to be pitching; people don't know you're sitting at home,'” Blue Crabs manager Patrick Osborn said. “But it's up to him. The ball's in his court.”
Tim Farrell, Thompson's Little League coach with Hughesville and close family confidant, noted that by sometime today Thompson should have an answer for the Blue Crabs.
According to Farrell, Thompson's agent wanted to hear from all the major league organizations via email today on whether they wanted to sign Thompson before he opted for the Blue Crabs.
“It's not out of the question by any means,” Farrell said of Thompson signing with the Blue Crabs. “I don't know what he would do, but it'd be nice for all the kids [in Southern Maryland] to see him [play for the Blue Crabs]. It would be cool for the area and be good for the community.
“He likes the [Blue Crabs] coaching a lot and has played with three or four guys [in the affiliated minors] on the Blue Crabs.”
The Blue Crabs are an independent minor league team, not affiliated with a major league organization.
Osborn added that he's surprised Thompson is available for any minor league team, of affiliated or independent status, to scoop up.
“A guy that's that young that pitched in the big leagues last year, that's had some success in the minor leagues, it's one of those baseball things that makes you shake your head. There's a lot of them,” the Blue Crabs skipper said. “[Blue Crabs reliever Chris] Mobley played with him last year [in Triple-A Louisville for the Reds] and said he was up to 96 [mph].
“I think he can help us. That's the bottom line. I wouldn't be signing him just as a courtesy. He can pitch. He's got a good arm and a good breaking ball.”
Osborn was hopeful that Thompson would join the Blue Crabs on Sunday, then travel with them Monday for the kickoff to a three-game series in Long Island.
Blue Crabs top pitcher Dan Reichert sustained a fractured left pinkie last Wednesday on his glove hand and was seeing a hand specialist Monday to determine if he could pitch in his next scheduled start Tuesday. Should Reichert be unable to go on Tuesday, Osborn was hoping to start Thompson.
Had Reichert been okayed to start Tuesday, Osborn was going to use Thompson in the Blue Crabs-depleted bullpen.
But those plans were most likely dependent upon Thompson signing with the Blue Crabs before this past weekend was up.
Thompson was signed to a minor league contract with the Minnesota Twins last November as a free agent but was released by the organization in early June.
Thompson has a career 0-3 record in the majors with an 8.31 ERA in four games, three of them starts.
In 10 years in the affiliated minors, mostly spent with the Reds organization from 2006 to 2011, he has a 36-44 tab with a 3.79 ERA.
Thompson's biggest splash professionally occurred in June 2008 with a memorable major league debut at the old Yankee Stadium when he showcased his mid-90s fastball, deceptive changeup and knee-buckling curve to throw five shutout innings against one of the most potent lineups in the game that season.
Nearly 55,000 fans, including about 25 family and friends from Southern Maryland, witnessed the then 22-year-old Thompson dazzle in “The House That Ruth Built” while aiding the Reds to a 6-0 victory over the Yankees. He got a no-decision that day as the Reds offense scored after he departed the mound.
That 2008 season also saw Thompson sport a dominating 5-0 record with a 2.76 ERA for Triple-A Louisville in seven starts.
“He was 90, 91 [mph] with his fastball, which in this league is very good,” Osborn said of how fast Thompson threw during the bullpen sessions of 30 to 35 pitches. “You don't see a lot of velocity here because those guys are in affiliated baseball. I saw what I needed to see and he was healthy.”
Shoulder injuries have slowed Thompson at times throughout his career. Last Monday, he said he's at full strength.