Thomas' path has been different than most

Dodgers lefty, who started career in independent ball, picks up win in first start

Thomas' path has been different than most

NEW YORK -- Justin Turner's unlikely baseball narrative is nothing compared to Ian Thomas'.

Undrafted out of high school and college, then hidden in independent ball for three-plus seasons, the Dodgers left-hander was on the main stage in the Big Apple Friday night, standing in for Zack Greinke in his first Major League start and beating the Mets, 7-2, at Citi Field.

Thomas came to the Dodgers two months ago from Atlanta in the Juan Uribe trade. Primarily a Minor League reliever with the Braves, he gave the Dodgers five innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts on Friday.

That earned him his first win of the year. It also might earn him a return to Triple-A, but even that is better than independent ball.

"It's been a journey, a different path than what most have taken with the Draft and progression at each level," said the 28-year-old, who credits his manager with the 2012 York Revolution, former big league catcher Andy Etchebarren, with saving his career.

"It's the mindset, independent leagues, and I just tried to keep a good mindset, optimistic and realistic at the same time," he said. "I wanted to keep going and not hang it up and look back and wonder what would have happened if I gave it another season.

"Etchebarren really got my career started in a couple weeks at York. Then Bruce Manno [with Atlanta]. I was giving myself a cutoff time, I was 25 and telling my family if I didn't get the results, I'd revert back to the real world. I was leaning toward that window to completely close."

Instead, things "just started falling into place." The Braves bought him from York in 2012, and two years later he was in the Major Leagues for 16 appearances with Atlanta.

Friday night, pitching exclusively out of the stretch "to simplify things," Thomas had the luxury of a 6-0 lead through three innings.

"We swung the bats and I came in with shutdown innings, I thought that was pretty key," he said.

Thomas has been around the game long enough, and seen enough of the Dodgers' roster manipulations this year, to know that there's no way to really know what's next.

"It depends if they want to keep me in the rotation," he said. "Any role, I'll be ready. Start, relieve, whatever they need."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.