As you watch the World Series tonight, keep an eye out for a tall right-hander coming out of the Tampa Bay bullpen. He’s easy to spot because of his arm angle, which is sidearm.
His name is Ryan Thompson and you may not be familiar with him because he’s had a long and painful path to the major leagues from tiny Turner (pop. 2,116), about 10 miles south of Salem.
Thompson pitched for Cascade High School in Turner and then for Chemeketa Community College in Salem. He pitched well enough there to earn a scholarship at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., where he was twice named to All-America teams.
Obviously, Thompson’s amateur career played out far from the big-city spotlight.
He was drafted in the 23rd round of the Major League Baseball draft in 2014, the 676th player selected.
And, Thompson, 28, had Tommy John surgery before moving to the Rays’ organization in the Rule 5 draft in 2018,
He won a spot on the Tampa Bay roster this year after an impressive performance at the team’s training site and has become a dependable arm out of the bullpen.
Here;s what MLB.com’s Juan Toribio wrote about him Tuesday:
“Thompson’s rise to high-leverage situations has been one of the biggest developments this season. The sidearming right-hander wasn’t projected to be on the Opening Day roster, but an impressive performance during Summer Camp forced the Rays’ hand.
“Since then, Thompson has proven to be a reliable and versatile reliever. He has been used as an opener, he has pitched on three consecutive days a couple of times and he has pitched in key situations late in the game. How does he do it?
“Well, his funky delivery definitely helps. Thompson has a unique arm angle, but he also has elite velocity out of that slot. His sinker averaged 91 mph this season, though most opposing hitters will tell you it feels much faster. His go-to pitch is a Frisbee-like slider that held opposing hitters to a .196 average in the regular season and recorded a whiff (swing and miss) percentage of 34.2.
“Dodgers right-handed hitters such as Mookie Betts, Justin Turner and Will Smith might see a heavy dose of Thompson in this Series. And none of them have seen the right-hander in their career. Also don’t be surprised if Thompson starts a bullpen game in Game 4.”