The opportunities have not been plentiful for the right-hander as the Storm has struggled but Dale Thayer has been up to the task when he is asked to take the mound.
Thayer went ten straight games without allowing a run before manager Rick Renteria inserted him into the closer's role.
"When he first came into the role where he was at in middle relief, it was just a matter of transitioning him from Fort Wayne and giving him some opportunities to pitch and just settle in," Renteria said. "As things went the roles just took care of themselves. Basically that's what happened. That is what he did last year. It was just a matter of if it ended up just being a natural progression."
Since his ascension, Thayer has saved eight games and seen work in twenty games total. He has allowed just one earned run over his last 31 games and two total. He has not blown a save to date and his ERA is a miniscule 1.66.
Is there much of a difference going from a role in middle relief to the pressure cooker that is the closer's role? Some would cite a different mindset, a forget attitude where you have to leave behind the last outing. But with Thayer pitching so well, there is little to forget and he is more concerned with focusing on what he has been doing right.
"I really don't think there is that much difference," Thayer said of assuming the closer role. "When I go out there I just go to get three outs. I have only had eight saves this year so a lot of my appearances I have not had an opportunity to get a save. I am focused on getting three outs and am not really worried about whether it is a save opportunity or not, if we are winning by one…"
Last year Thayer was the closer for the Fort Wayne Wizards and his numbers were just as impressive as this year. In 45 games Thayer had 25 saves and an ERA of 2.06. He struck out 72 in 48 innings and his WHIP was a paltry 0.96.
With the Storm he has been just as, if not more, effective. Since that horrendous first outing he has been unhittable and his WHIP is 0.92 for the year. More than 25 percent of his hits came in that first outing and he has given up just 18 hits over his last 36 innings of work.
The difference between leagues is subtle for Thayer but he sees a thing or two that has him focusing more.
"Just hitting your spots," Thayer said of the differences. "Last year in Low-A you could miss more and they would not hit it. This year you just have to make sure you hit your spots. If you don't they are going to hit the ball harder."
As with any prospect he is still in the process of ironing out a few of his pitches. As he climbs the ladder within the Padres system the hitters will become more responsible outside of the zone and Thayer recognizes that.
"Mainly my location and throwing my change up a little bit more, but not much (more)," Thayer said. "My slider – I need to work on that so I can throw it for strikes in an 0-0 count to get ahead and so I am not always just throwing fastball and to get a better breaking pitch."
To think, Thayer was once just another guy on the side of the road looking for a chance. Who knew someone would come looking for him and offer him a tryout with the San Diego Padres.
Sometimes destiny has a way of finding you.
"I was planning on seeing (about tryouts) when this guy asked me to if I wanted to go to this tryout and of course I said yes," Thayer voiced with a laugh. "Then they just picked me up from there."
John Conniff can be reached at Conniff@sandiegosports.net
Padres Prospect Interview: Dale Thayer
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