That was exactly what the Cardinals needed from Brad Thompson today.
The Cardinals took the third of a three-game series against the Rockies in a 3-0 win this afternoon.
Thompson was economical with his pitches, getting through six and two-thirds innings in less than 90 pitches. He was very effective also, shutting out the Rockies on only five hits. He struck out six batters, setting a new career high. What I was most impressed with, though, was the quality of Thompson’s secondary pitches.
I've never been a huge fan of Thompson, to be perfectly honest. I admire and respect him a ton, considering the yeoman's work he’s been asked to do in his career thus far. Up until now, though, I just never thought he was all that good of a pitcher. He's always had a nice sinker, but little else to go along with it.
Today, though, Brad's breaking ball looked as sharp as I’ve ever seen it, and his changeup had nice sink and tail on it. There was talk that he had worked on his complementary pitches over the winter, and it definitely shows. If this is an indication of genuine improvement, and not just one good day, I’m going to have to bump my opinion of Mr. Thompson up a couple of notches.
As efficient as he has the capacity to be, if he can start missing more bats, Brad will be at least a back of the rotation starter, and maybe better than that. He's got great mechanics, solid and repeatable, and should have little trouble staying healthy. Color me intrigued, more than I previously have been about Mr. Thompson’s future.
Just as exciting, though, was the performance of everybody's favorite enigma, Anthony Reyes. He came into the game in the eighth inning, throwing gas. Reyes struck out the side and, more importantly, looked more like the pitcher I remember from his debut a couple years ago, rather than what we've become accustomed to more recently.
Reyes appears to have gone back to a higher leg kick, with better leg drive in his delivery. His velocity was up, and his breaking ball appeared much better. When Anthony first came up, he threw more of a slider, in the mid-80s range, with nice, tight rotation on it. Over the last couple of years, though, his breaking ball has morphed into more of a curveball, with slurvy, rolling break. Today, though, it was tighter, faster and harder. Very encouraging. Not enough of a sample size to draw any real conclusions from, of course, but just his delivery and mechanics look much more like the guy we saw when he first came up, as opposed to the passive, tentative pitcher he had become in his time in the major leagues. Now, if we could just get Tony to move Todd “I Walk the Lineup” Wellemeyer back into the bullpen and give Anthony a start.
Izzy closed it out, and the Cardinals took their first series of the year, against the defending NL champs. They should have had the sweep, but, unfortunately, Mother Nature decided not to cooperate. Still, if these first games were any kind of indication of what we have in store from the local nine this season, it may not be as long a year as many, (myself definitely included) may have thought.