One of the types of players that the Phillies love to bring to the big league club each September is the type of guy who can pinch-run and make things happen on the basepaths. Names like Chris Roberson and Greg Golson made late season appearances in Philadelphia and were relied on to handle baserunning chores when necessary.
This September, the Phillies have another potential baserunning specialist to call on if they so desire; Rich Thompson
Thompson is unlike Roberson and Golson, who were both much younger than the 31 year-old Thompson, but then again, neither had the experience that Thompson possesses. While his major league experience has been limited to just one at-bat in six games with Kansas City in 2004, Thompson has played over 1,200 games in the minors, with over 700 of them coming at the Triple-A level.
“That’s why I’m still playing,” explained Thompson after getting two hits and a walk to help Lehigh Valley to an 8-7 win over Scranton. “I think there are still people who think I can still do that [help a major league club] and that’s why I’m still here. I’m ready.”
Thompson’s call to Philadelphia is nothing definite at this point, but his name is suddenly being kicked around more than it has in the other two Septembers that he was in the Phillies organization. His numbers – .280/.333/.375 – in time this season with both Reading and Lehigh Valley, are about where they usually are at this time of the season, but this has been a slightly tougher season than Thompson has had to endure lately.
In late June, the Phillies were facing a numbers game with outfielders at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Thompson suddenly became the odd-man-out and was given instructions to head for Double-A Reading. Rather than fight the move and argue that he was above having to make that sort of a back-step, Thompson was the good soldier and reported to Reading. His offense took an early hit and a week into his stint with the R-Phils, Thompson was hitting .091 until he turned things around with a 12 game hitting streak that saw him hit .431 (22-for-51) and never looked back. As July ended, Thompson was summoned back to Lehigh Valley.
“I do this because it’s fun and I can support my family on it,” said Thompson. “I’m certainly not going to be a distraction. I’m just going to play and do what I do as well as I possibly can.”
After putting up strong numbers this season and being the good soldier when it came to bumping him back to Reading, Thompson doesn’t have any definite expectation of being brought up to the majors in September. He also won’t let the Phillies decision of whether or not to bring him to the majors affect what he does as a minor league free agent during the off-season.
“Any time you’re a free agent, things have to align right and you can go and sign somewhere else, like [former IronPig Mike] Cervenak did and then he probably would have been called up here and it looked like this was a terrible place for him to be.”
Thompson also believes that sticking with the same organization can be a good thing when they want to keep you around. “Familiarity can be a good thing, because they know what you can do, but at the same time, you’re not going to trick them into thinking that you’re better than you are,” believes Thompson. “Spring training is short and to prove to a team that’s never seen you before that they should give you a job can be tough.”
Thompson is one of those bubble-players who aren’t guaranteed a September call-up, but could very well wind up putting on Phillies pinstripes before the end of the season. The Phillies will add a third catcher – either Paul Hoover or Dane Sardinha, who have both been up with the club during the season – and will also put Greg Dobbs back on the 40-man roster, which would put them at the full compliment of 40 players. They could gain one extra spot if they were to move Jamie Moyer from the 15 day DL to the 60 day DL.
That final roster spot would probably come down to between veterans Thompson, Andy Tracy, who has spent the past two Septembers with the Phillies, and Cody Ransom, who was up with the club earlier this season. John Mayberry is already on the 40 man and will likely be recalled. He could fill that pinch-running role with the Phillies, and if that’s their thinking, then Thompson is probably out of luck and the final spot – if used – would likely go to Tracy.