Since then, Thompson pitched in the Arizona Fall League, participated in his first major league spring training and was called up to the big club last week. He's already appeared in two games, pitching five solid innings. Thompson allowed just one earned run and opponents are hitting just .180 off him.
I caught up with the fresh-faced 23-year-old in New York. In a week of firsts, his first road trip was to the Big Apple.
Last time we talked, you were charting pitches during an Arizona Fall League game last October in front of about 150 people. This is a long way from there, isn't it?
It's a little bit different. I'm not charting pitches, but I'm in front of a lot more people. It's just been great so far.
Did your AFL success help you in getting ready for spring?
I think it's always good just to get out there and play. That league has a lot of great competition. It was good for me.
When did you learn of your first-ever spring training invite?
Not until January – the beginning of January – was when I found out. I was really excited about that. It was good to be around these guys.
Did Farm Director Bruce Manno call or what?
Yes, Bruce called me and invited me. He sounded excited and I was pretty excited, so it was great.
Which players have gone the most out of their way to help you and make you feel welcome?
Pretty much everybody. Everybody has been great to me. Everyone's got tips for me. Out in the bullpen, everybody takes care of me and makes sure I am doing the right thing. I try to stay as quiet as possible. I don't want to be heard out here (he laughs). Everybody's been great to me.
Did you have extra motivation in the spring, knowing you were that close to the majors?
I just wanted to come in trying to throw and get used to the bullpen and used to being in that role. I didn't expect to be here. Right now, especially. I was hoping maybe, maybe to be a September call-up if I got lucky. But, I got a few breaks and hopefully, I can take advantage of it here.
Did you know that you are the first member of the Cardinals' 2002 draft class to reach the majors?
That's great. I didn't know that. How about that? That's awesome. I am really proud.
Who did you call when you learned you'd been called up?
I called my parents right away (in Las Vegas). I talked to them – woke them up, in fact. They couldn't be any happier. They flew out to St. Louis and they were very excited. I talked to all my buddies and everybody is pretty excited for me.
You've been a sinker, slider pitcher. Last time we talked, you were working on a changeup. How is that going?
You know, it's a pitch that when I was in Memphis, I didn't use that much. When I got up here, Yadi called it a few times and it worked for me. I've probably thrown it five or six times in my two outings, which is probably more than I threw it last year as a starter. I think it is going to be an effective third pitch.
How important is it for you to have an effective third pitch?
I think it is important to have. As a reliever, you might not need it as much as a starter. But, if I am facing a tough lefty, it's a pitch that I want to have in the back pocket.
Has movement remained an important part of your game?
Yeah, just like always. I am not an overpowering kind of guy, so it's got to be moving around. I'm just trying to get the ball on the ground. It's been moving pretty well.
So far, you've come in during games when the opponents were far behind. Do you see a difference in how hitters approach at-bats in this situation?
You know, they might be. I am just fortunate that I came in in those spots. Two good spots to come in and get some innings. Hopefully, the outings will get closer and closer together. We'll see.
Was anything said to you about what role you'd play with the Cardinals?
No, nobody said anything. But, I think they were looking for the right spot to put me in there. They didn't want to throw me in the fire right away. It was a great spot to put me in. I loved it.
Do you like long relief, where you can get several innings at a time on the mound?
I do. I like being in the bullpen and coming to the ballpark thinking that I might be pitching that day. I don't care if it is an out or three innings. It doesn't matter to me. I'm just liking it so far.
Last year, after the streak, you were sidelined with a shoulder impingement. Are you fully healed?
The range of motion is back where it should be. It is a lot better than it was last year. I feel really good. No problems right now. Knock on wood. I am feeling good.
Is any special ongoing treatment required?
I strengthen it every day. Every day, I am doing something for my rotator cuff, my scapula. It is just something that I have to maintain throughout my career.
Last question. Are you going to try to swap uniform numbers to get some combination of seven or 11?
At some point, I'd like to, but I am not worrying about that right now.
As I thanked him for his time, Thompson called out to Randy Flores to go out and do some throwing. Perhaps they'll get to continue that ritual for a long time.
For my earlier interviews with Thompson, click here: Walton Interviews
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.