Now Commenting On:

{"content":["spring_training" ] }

Thatcher eyes Opening Day spot

Thatcher eyes Opening Day spot

PEORIA, Ariz. -- For a guy who was undrafted out of college and started his pro career in an independent league, Joe Thatcher has had quite a quick ascent to the Major Leagues.

Thatcher, 26, didn't slow down once he got there, either. He was 2-2 with a 1.29 ERA in 22 games for the Padres last season, making his Major League debut two years and seven days after he was signed by Milwaukee out of the Frontier League.

This spring, Thatcher is in contention for a spot on the Opening Day roster, and he's thrown well once again, posting a 4.15 ERA in four appearances entering Friday's action.

"Joe's kind of interesting, he's kind of wildly effective in the zone," bench coach Craig Colbert said. "He gets some guys to swing at some balls that aren't strikes, but that's just his stuff. He's looked good to me."

Thatcher was dominant at all levels a season ago, going 4-1 with a 1.35 ERA in the Minors and allowing only 13 hits in 21 innings with the Padres.

Thatcher walked only six while striking out 16 at the Major League level. Walks are often a bane of situational lefties, who are usually in and out of games within the blink of an eye.

"I think the most important thing as a reliever is to throw strikes," Thatcher said. "Walks will kill you, especially as a reliever coming in in tight situations."

Thatcher might be under a lot of pressure in fighting for a bullpen job, but he's probably not the most stressed member of his family right now.

His sister, Anne, is a senior guard for the Indiana State women's basketball team (14-14), which began the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament on Friday night likely needing to win it to gain an NCAA Tournament berth.

Thatcher grew up playing basketball nine months a year, with baseball being "a summer thing," so he follows his sister's games and talks to her frequently.

"Growing up, we'd be out there shooting baskets every night, and sometimes my mom would rebound," Thatcher said. "It's kind of a family thing."

Spring Training
News and features:
• Prior on his latest throwing session  400K
• GM Towers on breaking camp  400K
• Peavy discusses final spring start  400K
• Black on Opening Day roster  400K
• Greene on new double-play partner  400K
• Padres highlights, March 24  400K
Spring Training info:
MLB.com coverage  |  Schedule  |  Ballpark  |  Tickets

Thatcher played baseball for four years at Indiana State, where his father had played, but Thatcher wasn't drafted out of college, where he had solid success as a reliever but was 4-8 with a 5.60 ERA as a senior starter.

He pitched in the Frontier League in 2004 and again in 2005, going a combined 6-5 with a 2.40 ERA before Milwaukee snatched him up.

Thatcher might be hard pressed to duplicate last season's statistics, but he knows what he can do.

"Last year, I got to the point where I could throw a big pitch whenever I needed to," Thatcher said, "no matter what level I was at."

Mark Thoma is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["spring_training" ] }
{"content":["spring_training" ] }
Boys and Girls Club of America

©2014 MLBAM, LP. All rights reserved.

The following are trademarks or service marks of Major League Baseball entities and may be used only with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. or the relevant Major League Baseball entity: Major League, Major League Baseball, MLB, the silhouetted batter logo, World Series, National League, American League, Division Series, League Championship Series, All-Star Game, and the names, nicknames, logos, uniform designs, color combinations, and slogans designating the Major League Baseball clubs and entities, and their respective mascots, events and exhibitions. Use of the Website signifies your agreement to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy (updated May 24, 2013).

View MLB.com in English | En Español