- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
All good things must come to an end.
And that includes the local baseball marriage of Hughesville native Daryl Thompson to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
The former Cincinnati Reds pitcher, a 2003 La Plata High School graduate who was drafted the same year in the eighth round by the then-Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals), has earned a return trip back to the affiliated minors with hopes of fulfilling his dream again as a Major Leaguer.
After emerging as one of the Atlantic League’s top pitchers since arriving to the Blue Crabs on July 31 of last year, Thompson was notified shortly before Monday’s game at Waldorf’s Regency Furniture Stadium that he was headed to the New York Mets organization to become a member of their Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas.
Thompson’s signing with the Mets became official Tuesday when he was scheduled to depart that morning on a flight headed west, bidding farewell to his hometown Blue Crabs.
“I had no idea, I had no idea,” the 27-year-old right-hander simply said about the Mets’ interest in him while he hung out in the Blue Crabs clubhouse one final time following Monday’s 2-1 win over Sugar Land.
Thompson, who was scheduled to start Tuesday’s game for the Blue Crabs, was not in the dugout with his teammates Monday, as he was relegated to packing up all his locker belongings during the contest once he was told by manager Patrick Osborn around 5:40 p.m. that he was going to be signed by the Mets.
“Pat called me into the office and told me congratulations, I’m gone,” Thompson recounted Monday night. “I was like, ‘Where am I going?’ He was like, ‘New York Mets Triple-A.’ So he gave me the number to call the [Mets scout] about my flight information and when they would get me out of [Southern Maryland].”
Thompson said he will be a starting pitcher for Las Vegas and will most likely make his debut in the rotation for the Triple-A outfit on Thursday, Friday or Saturday this week in his new home stadium.
“I’m not going to say I gave up on being picked up [by a Major League organization] this late in the season, but I was just playing to go out there and put up zeros and give the team the best chance of winning every time I [take the mound],” Thompson added. “I know we can come back and win [this league title]. But it’s time for me to move on to that next chapter.”
Thompson, whose all-star appearance this season with the Blue Crabs saw him pitch two scoreless innings in his home ballpark in July, became the ace of the quality pitching staff while boasting the league’s fifth-best win total with a 10-5 record and fifth-best ERA of 3.18, victorious in six of his last seven decisions since June 13.
He had developed into a Pitcher-of-the-Year candidate within the league.
“I’m extremely happy for Daryl,” Osborn said. “He deserves this opportunity. He’s been an absolute pleasure to manage, and I wish him the best of luck.”
The Blue Crabs skipper added that lefty Mike O’Connor would be signed today to replace Thompson on the pitching staff. O’Connor previously had a cup of coffee for the Blue Crabs during the 2009 season when he made four starts with a 2-0 record and 3.13 ERA.
O’Connor’s claim to fame in Blue Crabs lore is he became the first player to make it to the majors after donning a Southern Maryland uniform. He pitched in nine games out of the bullpen for the Mets in the 2011.
Now Thompson is hoping to follow the same route as O’Connor, going from the Blue Crabs to the Mets big league team.
Thompson has made four appearances in the majors with the Reds during the 2008 and 2011 seasons with a career 0-3 mark in the big leagues with an 8.31 ERA. All three of his big league starts occurred in 2008.
New man on mound
Thompson has reinvented himself as a pitcher since his days with the Reds, no longer an overpowering thrower after two shoulder surgeries that he says he has completely recovered from. His injury-free span with the Blue Crabs of almost 13 months is proof of that.
“Anybody that gets to Triple-A and if all goes well, you never know,” Blue Crabs pitching coach Joe Gannon said of Thompson possibly returning to the majors, maybe as early as this season with the September call-ups. “That’s the biggest thing is the track record, proving your healthy. And if [big league scouts] see that you’re healthy, are you still being effective? To me, I would’ve assumed that maybe midseason, [Thompson] would’ve been gone [to a Major League organization].”
Gannon added, “He’s a much better pitcher now. When you throw 95 [mph], you get away with a lot more. He worked his tail off and kind of remade himself. He is no longer effective with just one pitch but now with four pitches. He reinvented himself to the point where all four pitches ... that was his most effective weapon. Nobody knew where he was going to throw. He’d throw his change-up, his slider, his curveball, and they’re all out of the same arm angle. He did a great job. We’re going to miss him a ton. He was somebody we leaned on.”
Thompson was especially dominant his last five starts with the Blue Crabs, allowing no more than three runs in each stint while pitching into at least the sixth inning every time.
Thompson’s brilliance was on display his last two starts with one run allowed on six hits in 14 combined innings, which included lasting eight innings and yielding a solo score on just three hits in what became his farewell outing for the Blue Crabs in a winning decision on Aug. 14 against Bridgeport.
That final Blue Crabs outing saw Thompson flirt with a no-hitter that was broken up with one out in the seventh.
“Right now, I feel 100 percent and I’m ready to go [to the affiliated minors],” he said. “I’m pretty confident going into it. I know I’ve been there before, but at the same time, I’m a different person. I’m older. I’m more of a pitcher now than a thrower like I used to be.”
Thompson was at the Triple-A level as recently as last year in the Minnesota Twins organization before getting released in June and signing with the Blue Crabs.
“I’m going to miss being at home playing in front of the home fans, my family being able to watch me pitch,” the Southern Marylander said of leaving the Blue Crabs. “But at the same time, [my family] would like to see me accomplish my lifelong dream of being a Major League Baseball player. I still have a ways to go.”
He added, “I don’t want to forget anything [about the Blue Crabs], but I don’t want to look back. [Being with the Blue Crabs] taught me to go out here and have fun. [Before coming to the Blue Crabs], I hadn’t really been having fun playing the game of baseball, constantly thinking about the injuries or why I got released [from Major League organizations]. I feel healthy. I feel 100 percent.”
Thompson becomes the second Blue Crabs player this season to sign with a Major League organization after league-Most Valuable Player favorite Cyle Hankerd went to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in July.