Thayer hoping to finally stick in the bigs
Tampa Bay (22-22) at Florida (19-24), 7:10 p.m. ET
MIAMI -- Though Friday brought some unsettling news for the Rays in the wake of sending Scott Kazmir and Troy Percival to the disabled list, it provided a big thrill for Reid Brignac and Dale Thayer, who were called up to the big leagues.
But the thrill was bigger for one than the other.
That's because Thayer isn't an up-and-coming player barely old enough to drink like Brignac, who is 23. Thayer, a right-handed reliever, is 28 years old and has been in the Minor Leagues for seven years -- four of them pitching at least some games out of Triple-A -- without ever getting that call.
His first stint in the big leagues probably won't be that long, either, as the Rays will need to make a roster move after Sunday's game to open up a spot for young phenom David Price -- who's expected to start on Monday, though nothing has been officially announced yet.
But Thayer will take it -- any day.
"I just try to prove myself every year, and finally it paid off," said Thayer, who first called his wife, Lisa, in Huntington Beach, Calif., upon hearing the news. "I took a while, but if you keep going at it, good things will happen."
Throughout Thayer's relatively long Minor League career, he did nothing but good things.
Thayer never posted an ERA over 3.00, sported a 1.63 ERA in 50 games during his second year for High-A ball and compiled a collective 25-15 record with a 2.24 ERA in 333 total relief appearances. This year, he was perhaps better than ever, as his ERA stood at 0.93 (two earned runs in 19 1/3 innings) with six saves in 16 appearances for Triple-A Durham.
During a 15-2 romp over the Marlins on Friday, Thayer finally made his Major League debut and gave up one run -- in the ninth inning -- in three innings while giving up three hits and walking none.
"Ever since we got him a couple of years ago, I've been watching his numbers in Double-A and I kept asking about him a couple of years ago," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I was just asking about him and asking about him, and I saw him in Spring Training. I like his arm. He just seems to do well."
But until now, Thayer simply never got the breaks.
Signed by San Diego as an undrafted free agent in 2002, the former Chico State University hurler spent four years pitching great for the Padres' organization. Then, in September 2006, he was the player to be named along with right-hander Evan Meek in exchange for outfielder Russell Branyan.
"I thought it'd be a good thing at first because the Padres had the best bullpen in all of baseball," Thayer said. "Then they fell off and the Rays went up, so I'm kind of like, 'What's going on?'"
Although his first stay in the Major Leagues likely won't be a long one, Thayer has caught the eye of the Rays' organization.
And if he does leave, it likely won't take him as long to come back as it did to get in.
"It's a great opportunity for Dale; he certainly deserves it," Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "Going back to last year, this year, the success he's had in Triple-A, it's really incredible. He gets a lot of swings and misses on his fastball, good slider, and we feel like this stint may be short-term, but we want to get his feet wet and maybe get him some exposure to the Major Leagues.
"The next time, it may be for a more expanded period of time."Pitching matchup
TB: RHP Jeff Niemann (4-3, 4.97 ERA)
Niemann had his best performance of the season on Monday against the A's, lasting eight innings while allowing three earned runs on eight hits while walking none and striking out three. It was his second consecutive strong start and a good sign for Tampa Bay, which is expecting a lot from its 6-foot-9 No. 5 starter. Keep in mind, though, that Oakland is near the bottom in almost every offensive statistical category this season. FLA: LHP Sean West (2009 Debut)
West, one of five first-round picks in 2005, will make his big league debut Saturday against the Rays. The 6-foot-8 left-hander is 4-2 with a 4.85 ERA at Double-A Jacksonville. In 42 2/3 innings, West has 50 strikeouts and 22 walks. In his last outing, West took a no-decision while allowing one run on three hits over six innings while striking out six against the Carolina Mudcats. The lefty will face a potent lineup that flexed its muscles Friday night. Tampa Bay tagged Florida for 15 runs en route to a series-opening victory. Tidbits
Friedman said the Rays will have a better feel for how outfielder Pat Burrell (stiff neck) is doing when he re-joins the team in Cleveland on Monday. "I'm still optimistic, but I don't have a lot of new information right now," Friedman said. Burrell is eligible to come off his 15-day disabled-list stint on Wednesday. Friedman added that Burrell should be ready at around that time. ... Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez will not be at Saturday's game, as he will fly out to Atlanta to attend his daughter's high-school graduation. Bench coach Carlos Tosca will take his place. ... The Rays are now 6-1 against the Marlins dating back to last season. ... Jason Bartlett's double in the first inning extended his hitting streak to eight games. During that streak, he's batting .429 (12-for-28) with a home run and 11 RBIs. His batting average now stands at a team-high .375. ... Brignac made his 2009 debut and recorded his first Major League hit, going 1-for-2 with a run scored. In his first season -- last year -- Brignac went 0-for-10 through four games. Tickets
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Sunday: Rays (James Shields, 3-4, 3.43) at Marlins (Josh Johnson, 3-1, 2.54), 1:10 p.m. ET
Monday: Rays (TBD) at Indians (Fausto Carmona, 2-4, 5.74), 6:05 p.m. ET
Tuesday: Rays (Matt Garza, 4-2, 3.41) at Indians (Carl Pavano, 4-4, 6.10), 7:05 p.m. ET
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.