That's Padres relief pitcher Dale Thayer pictured above, looking like the Platonic ideal of a closer. He has the crazy eyes, the Fu Manchu mustache, the ridiculous do-nothing titanium necklace.
In some parallel universe, Thayer is a well-known, widely feared major league closer — a guy with badass entrance music and tens of millions of dollars in the bank. But in this universe, the 31-year-old Thayer is a hugely successful reliever who many fans have never actually seen. He's earned 174 saves over the course of a 10-year pro career, but 173 of them occurred in the minors.
Maybe a few of you will recall this web gem from 2010, back when Thayer was pitching in the Rays system for Triple-A Durham...
Thayer appeared in 46 games for the Bulls that year, plus he made a two-inning cameo in the big leagues with Tampa Bay. He's visited the majors in each of the past four seasons, in fact, so let's try to avoid the Crash Davis comparisons (despite the Durham connection. And despite the fact that Thayer is climbing the all-time minor league saves leaderboard. OK, so I guess I just made a comparison. But at least I did it in parentheses).
In 2011, Thayer tossed 10.1 innings for the Mets, allowing 12 hits, no walks, and four earned runs. He also saved 21 games at Triple-A Buffalo last season, posting an ERA of 2.66 with a sparkling 0.97 WHIP. He struck out 66 batters over 71.0 innings, too. But he walked away from the Mets at the end of the year, signing a minor league deal with San Diego. The Pads called up Thayer in late-April when Micah Owings hit the disabled list, and he's been terrific so far. He's yielded just one hit and no runs over four appearances, walking no one.
When San Diego closer Huston Street went on the DL over the weekend (lat strain), manager Bud Black indicated that Andrew Cashner would likely be the team's primary ninth inning option — but the skipper also reportedly named Luke Gregerson and Thayer as options. And Cashner was battered in an appearance on Sunday (0.2 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 2 BB, K), opening the door just a bit wider for his competition.
Bottom line, I'm rooting for Thayer here. He's no better than a dark horse saves candidate, true, but at least he has a puncher's chance. He's put his name (and his 'stache) in the discussion. Thayer has the traditional closer's arsenal (slider, low-to-mid-90s fastball), and he clearly has the right look. I've added him in a pair of leagues, just hoping. I've added Gregerson, too. And Cashner.
Basically, I'm sick of adding Padres. Here's hoping Thayer is the one we keep — and if he's not, then let's hope he at least sticks in the majors. According to the Roto Arcade research staff (me), Thayer is 58 saves away from reaching what we believe to be the career minor league record, Todd Williams' 231. That's presumably an all-time record that no reliever really wants to own.
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