Notes: Vet Thomson fits in instantly
Right-hander very happy to make it back to Major Leagues
ANAHEIM -- In the Royals clubhouse, reaction to John Thomson's victory Monday night over the Angels might not have reached the jubilation level, but the smiles on the faces of manager Buddy Bell, pitching coach Bob McClure and Thomson himself spoke louder than any celebration."That's really what we needed," Bell said of Thomson's seven-inning, six-hit performance. "There's always a concern when you pick up a player after a long rehab, but there were reports that he was pitching well."
Thomson pitched in nine Minor League appearances with the Blue Jays organization before the Royals signed him on June 22."We had to take a chance ... and it was a good chance," Bell said. Thomson dispatched the Angels on 81 pitches. Before Tuesday's second game of the current series, he gave partial credit to the Angels' free-swinging approach. "I got away with a couple of pitches in the sixth and seventh innings because of the way they were swinging aggressively early in the game," Thomson said. "They were expecting the kind of movement I'd had on my sinker, and it wasn't there." Instead, Thomson's sinker had "flattened out." A couple of fly balls went deep into the outfield, and, Thomson said, "I just stood on the mound saying, 'Thank you for not hitting a home run.'" The Angels' free-swinging lineup, a combustion engine that has produced the best record in the Major Leagues, couldn't find its rhythm against the 10-year veteran. "I think I have a better chance against an aggressive team in terms of keeping my pitch count down," Thomson said. Ironically, Thomson said, he encountered a career milestone against none other than Vladimir Guerrero. "Vlady took the first pitch on me," he said, still in disbelief. "He got in his stance, then just stood there. I think that's the first time that's ever happened." Pitching coach McClure likes the fact that Thomson is "a strike-thrower who's not going to walk batters and beat himself." That's refreshing, McClure said, because "last year we had a major, major problem with guys who couldn't or didn't want to throw the ball over the plate." McClure credited general manager Dayton Moore with having added Thomson and improving the depth of a young organization. Still, considering Thomson's injury-prone journey through five other Major League organizations, "We didn't really know for sure how accurate he was going to be," McClure said. After nine rehab starts with Blue Jays Class A and Triple-A clubs, Thomson and his recovered right shoulder arrived just three days before Monday night's win. "He had two bullpen sessions [Friday and Saturday]," McClure said, "and he was accurate, so it was just a question of how he was going to do in a game." Bell, who had managed Thomson when both were at Colorado in 2001-02, said, "John's a good athlete, a good baseball player. It's never been an issue of not having the desire or being able to get the job done. His health has been the biggest hurdle. Mechanically right now, he looks sound." Naturally, a lot has changed since their time with the Rockies. "When he was throwing 96-98 miles per hour back then, he could pitch to the middle of the plate," Bell said. "So now he has to pitch to the edges." Thomson has done just that.
"I divide the plate into thirds," he said, "and if I miss one over the plate with my sinker, I'm not overly concerned."That's what kept the Angels at bay on Monday night. On Tuesday, reporting "the normal day-after body soreness," Thomson was beaming as he looked back on the past 13 months -- the time between his last Major League victory and Monday's gem. "To get back," he said, "I'm very excited. The other side of the coin is, I've got to keep it up." Next up: The Royals conclude their nine-game road trip with an afternoon game in Anaheim and return home to face the Chicago White Sox after an off-day on Thursday. Lefty Jorge De La Rosa (4-9, 5.75 ERA) takes on Angels right-hander Jered Weaver (6-3, 3.80) in a 2:35 p.m. CT affair.
Ted Brock is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.