Where Are They Now: Sean Thompson

WALDORF, MD: Sean Thompson was drafted by the Padres in 2002 out of Thunder Ridge High School in Littleton Colorado and instantly established himself as one of San Diego's better pitching prospects striking out 69 batters in 56.1 innings in Idaho Falls of the Pioneer League.

For the next two and half years, the slight left-hander experienced little difficulty in the short-season and A-ball leagues with his plus curveball and quality changeup. The problems began for Thompson in Double-A where the occasional misplaced fastball began to result in some big hits.

Although he was able to put together some quality months, including a very impressive 2006 in Mobile where he struck out 134 batters in 154 innings, which led the organization, against 148 hits and 46 walks, lapses in concentration where he gave up 18 home runs came back to bite him.

A poor spring training resulted in Thompson being sent back to Double-A, but he put together a strong April and seemed to be turning the corner with his cut fastball, which resulted in a 3-1 record and a 0.64 ERA. When Sean began to struggle in May and June, the Padres removed him from the 40-man roster as they traded for Milton Bradley.

This resulted in Thompson being picked up by the Kansas City Royals and then going onto Colorado where he finished off the year with Tulsa in the Texas League.

Currently, Thompson has been struggling in the Atlantic League with a 1-4 record and a 5.85 ERA. He's allowed less hits per inning, 40/38, but what is killing him is a 32/22 K/BB ratio.

Most people who follow Madfriars and the Padres minor leagues are familiar with you, so why don't you tell us what went on with you in the past year after you were taken off of the forty-man roster and signed by the Kansas City Royals and then were taken off of their forty man when another player came off of the DL. You were then taken by your hometown team, the Colorado Rockies – so why don't you take it from there.

Sean Thompson: I was in Arkansas about three days later with Tulsa [the Rockies Double-A affiliate] and I watched a line drive kill our first base coach. So that was kind of nuts for me and the team because I knew a lot of the guys on the team because I had played with them and against them. So when I saw that it was hard and rough but it also put things into perspective. I was down on myself after bouncing around from different organizations but that was really tough and made me realize how minor my problems were.

I went to the funeral and it was nuts and really hard for the team but after that I pitched pretty well. I went 5-1 and had a great time with those guys my ERA was up a little, but I thought I pitched pretty well.

It's kind of curious when you see someone's name in the Independent Leagues you think, man this guy really pitched poorly, but you actually had a pretty good year. You went 5-1 with a 4.06 ERA in a place that is very much a hitter's park, that wasn't that bad a year. The only thing that was a little off was your BB/K ratio of 15/22, but batters only hit .248 off of you. You must have thought that things were going pretty well.

Sean Thompson: Everything was going well but for some reason I didn't feel I was pitching well in spring. I felt that I was "baby-arming" the ball not really pitching but trying to miss too many bats. I wasn't even throwing hard and was reluctant to really let it go. I had a couple of good outings and then you know and a few things happened and I ended up getting released. They had their ideas and I had mine so it was just better we each went our own way. A couple of teams came in, but it just wasn't the right situation either.

I took a few weeks off and decided that coming to Camden might be the best thing for me. I went down to spring training with them and I felt good. Then in the first outing I popped my groin.

Luckily if it weren't for Damian Jackson, who I played with a little in San Diego, who saw it and immediately started to yell at me to get off of the field. He was on the other team and guys at first thought he was messing with me, but he saw what happened and really started to yell at me to get off of the field because he knew what could happen. If I had stayed on the field for another four or five pitches I could have really done some serious damage.

I went back to Arizona and I tried to come back a little too quick and started to feel it pop again, so I held up.

That is a tough injury because you want to work on it but if you try too much you make it worse.

Sean Thompson: Yeah, and its my push off leg, and I've never been injured so now I'm really feeling bad because I want to get out there and show what I can do. Herbie, who is my agent, has been great and is the reason why I'm still playing – and there has been so many things that have gone on in my career that have been so up and down, but Herbie has never left my side. He's a dear friend, besides from my family, and keep on playing baseball, which I love.

No one likes being released but could it also be a bit of a blessing for you if you perform here to find the situation that is right for you instead of it being dictated to you?

Sean Thompson: Absolutely, it's like being re-drafted. I know what I can do, but sometimes it's just not what is about on the field. This can also be an opportunity to correct any prior beliefs of the player and that I can show people what I can do. I didn't have a 0.96 ERA all season. There is a lot that I can still work on. Everybody is doing their thing in pro ball and I'm doing my thing and when a team needs someone, Herbie and I will make our decision if it is the best situation for me. Wherever I'm playing, I'm playing.

What is the level of competition like in the Atlantic League compared to the minors?

Sean Thompson: Honestly it's pretty good it's pretty much around Double-A/Triple-A. I mean you have former major leaguers like Damian Jackson and Brian Lawrence, so you definitely have guys that can play. It's kind of cool because I see more big leaguers around here than I did in three years of camp in San Diego and one in Colorado. It's kind of cool because they really treat you like men; just do your thing and we'll leave you alone. There is no one walking behind you telling you to put your hat on a certain way.

We just have so many guys that have been in the big leagues that really know how to play, but are so down to earth and just fun. You know, I've run into a few guys who I've played with that have been in the big leagues and these guys have gotten seriously paid and they have no reason to have any distaste in their tone whatsoever and they still aren't happy. If I ever make it to that level, you will never catch me moping about because when you think of the big picture what do you really have to complain about? What reason do you have to treat anyone different but that's me. I like to have fun and have everyone smile back.

It's hard for both Denis and I to criticize you because we've covered you for so long and you have helped us out on the site, but when people asked my response always was that Sean's two best pitches are his plus curve and change but he always has to throw his worst pitch, his fastball, about 70% of the time which means to compete at upper levels, he has to really be on that day. What have you done to improve your fastball?

Sean Thompson: My weakness is still there because I'm never going to throw 95, but the big thing that I have improved is that I can now throw from three different angles, over the top, side, and come down low Cla Merideth style. It's fun, I don't have 95 or 90 on most days, maybe Game 7 of the World Series, but I know where it's going. It's strange. I think I throw harder down low, and as long as I have guys off-balance, there is no reason why I shouldn't have a problem. If I can keep up with that mentality, you know the skinny guy with the bat boy's jersey, I'm not going to blow anyone away, but I'm going to fool quite a few people.

You're in Independent Leagues now and it seems like you have a pretty good game plan but what happens if things don't work out for you this year? Do you look to do something else or do you keep going until they rip the jersey off of your back?

Sean Thompson: Absolutely. Without throwing my foot in my mouth, when I'm healthy and I'm out on the field, I can do my thing. Yeah you're going to have to rip it off of me, big league, Independent even if it's a rec league; I always want to play.

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