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June 4, 2012 5:00 am

Painting the Black: Is Throwing Strikes Enough?


R.J. Anderson

Dale Thayer doesn't do much, but he does one thing, and that might be all it takes to be a successful reliever.

Every closer needs a signature something. Dale Thayer is instantly recognizable thanks to his Wyatt Earp-inspired mustache, and so when he takes the mound people know that the Padres are calling upon their closer. It’s a temporary gig, just until Huston Street returns, but it did lead to a more permanent role as a guinea pig. So long as Thayer is in the major leagues, he can help test the fungibility of relievers. One case won’t make much of a difference in a battle fought with constant fervor, but Thayer remains perfect for the role. After all, teams have viewed him as fungible dating back to his days as an undrafted collegiate. Thayer has survived exposure to the Rule 5 drafts, trades, outright assignments, and multiple minor-league free agencies. This closing thing? This closing thing is nothing.

The first thing you notice about Thayer is his velocity. Despite being listed at six feet, he can hit 95 mph on the gun. He goes to work with a three-pitch arsenal: the fastball, a slider, and a changeup. Here’s how a typical Thayer at-bat goes. He starts with a fastball away for a strike. Then he goes to the slider or the changeup, either as a bait pitch or in the zone. Once he gets to two strikes, he will try to get the batter to chase one of those pitches again. If the temptation proves fruitless, Thayer might elevate a fastball in attempt to coax a late swing.

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Catching up on stuff that happened when it had happened.

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