Padres Prospect Interview: Dale Thayer

Dale Thayer – tabbed as the Mobile Pitcher of the Year by two of us this offseason – has just returned from a winter with the Guasave Algodoneros. He helped his team go to the Mexican Pacific League championship series, where they ultimately fell to Mazatlan. Thayer tied for the league lead with 18 saves while working 28.2 innings in his first winter league season. We caught up with him by phone earlier this week to hear about the experience and get his thoughts on the coming season.

Tell us how your season in Guasave went:

Dale Thayer: My experience was a pretty good one – especially for not knowing any Spanish. I didn't know what I was in for. But it was fun and everyone was nice. It was totally different baseball experience; games last for four hours and the fans are more into it, so it's fun. We weren't supposed to do very well this year, but we made it all the way to the finals. They're not used to going past the first round down there.

It looked like it was a team effort for the team.

Dale Thayer: A lot of our guys on offense really stepped up. They had some hits as pinch-hitters a lot. Our pitching staff was real good. We had one or two good starters, but our bullpen was pretty much what kept the games close. They used everyone. We had about forty guys on the roster.

Did your agent get you placed for the season?

Dale Thayer: Yeah, it was my agent. He asked if I wanted to play, and since the Padres didn't ask me to go to the Arizona Fall League, I thought I'd go down there to work on my slider. That's the one big they want me to work on, so I thought it would be good to go down and work on it there. If I (struggle) here, I might not get a chance to move up, but down there I can work on it a lot more.

Did you primarily throw your slider down there?

Dale Thayer: Well, it's a breaking ball league pretty much. All the pitchers throw theirs all the time so the catcher calls it a lot more. I probably threw it 40% of the time, which is up for me.

And did you feel like you were able to throw it more effectively?

Dale Thayer: That's mainly what I was trying to work on, was getting ahead of batters with my slider. I can always throw it in the dirt with two strikes; it's just if I'm behind in the count so I have to throw a fastball when they're looking for it. So, I was just looking to throw a good slider for a strike.

Were you mostly working from the coaching you'd had from the Padres' staff, or were you coached down there as well?

Dale Thayer: I was working on what [Padres minor league instructors Mike Couchee and Bill Bryk] told me, but I'd never thrown this much and got tired. So, I kind of got out of that because I wasn't used to throwing so much. Our pitching coach down there, just looked at me at told me to try some different stuff and it worked out so that after a few weeks I started feeling better. So, I'll take all of that back this year and I think it will help me out a lot.

Your walk total was up compared to your work in the minors. Was that a factor of throwing the slider more than you would otherwise?

Dale Thayer: Actually – it's that the umpires are terrible. I mean, I walked some guys because I didn't throw strikes to them, but there were a lot of times when there's a big league hitter there, and you're not going to get strikes… I got frustrated with that a lot down there. But it makes you work a little bit harder.

Have they talked with you at all about your placement for the year?

Dale Thayer: No. I just got back two days ago, so I haven't heard from any of them yet. So, I don't have a clue where I'm going.

I assume after a long season and long run in Mexico, you'll take some time off before spring training?

Dale Thayer: I'm not even going to pick up a ball for probably about two and a half weeks. Two weeks before I have to leave, I'll start playing catch. Since I'm not going to lose a lot of arm strength for only taking two weeks, I don't need to blow it out here.

I was actually offered to go play in the Caribbean World Series and I had to say no because it would have ended on the sixth of February and that wasn't going to be enough time. I really need this time off.

As you look ahead to 2006, what are your goals for the season?

Dale Thayer: The walks I need to cut down – and that's just throwing strikes with all my pitchers. I mean, everyone can hit a fastball – especially if I get called up or anything. And these guys at Triple-A are good too. This winter ball helped because I faced a lot of big-leaguers. If I'm in Triple-A, I don't have to be like ‘Uh oh. This guy was in the big leagues and is just down for a month or two.' So it was nice to face some older prospects.

I'm just going to go out there and try and do what I've done for the last three years and not worry about anything. Just keep everything low – except strikeouts!

Since the start of your career, you've often been overlooked. How has it felt to go out and produce the way you have consistently when people have said you couldn't do it?

Dale Thayer: It started when I didn't get drafted and just signed out of that tryout camp. So, when I got that invite, I was like ‘Okay, I've got to prove myself just to make the team.' Then I made the team and had a pretty good year at Ft. Wayne. And then, the next year – all the people said ‘Oh he can't do this or that,' and of course I'm going to read all that stuff on the internet. So, I've kind of set out to prove myself every single year. I'm not going to be satisfied just getting to this level. I just have to try to prove myself every year – and every time I go out there so that sometime they'll write something good about me! [Hey Dale, check out the nice things we've already said!]

Was there anyone you faced who really impressed you offensively?

Dale Thayer: Luis Garcia from Hermosilla [who played with the Mets' Triple-A squad in 2005] was probably the toughest guy to get out in the league. He was real good.

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