BRIDGEPORT -- General manager Bob Goughan was not shy in his pursuit of former big league right-hander Brad Thompson. In a matter of days after being released by the Minnesota Twins June 1, he was in contact with him and poised to have him join the Bridgeport Bluefish.
Most players would have jumped at the chance to continue their season. As Goughan learned, though, Thompson is not like most players. He turned down the offer because he did not feel like he was in a position to help the Bluefish.
Thompson, 30, had undergone Tommy John Surgery in August of 2010. He said he picked up some bad habits prior to undergoing the procedure and needed more time to right himself.
"I basically told (Goughan) I wasn't comfortable with the way I was throwing the ball (at Class AA New Britain) and I need to go get myself figured out before I came here,'' Thompson said.
"I knew how competitive this league was and a lot of ex-big league guys. So I told him I'm going to go down to Arizona for a month or so and figure myself out and you guys are going to be the first call when I'm ready.''
Thompson subsequently signed with the Copper State Prospectors in the four-team independent Freedom League. He went 4-0 with 5.18 ERA in 33 innings over five starts, throwing in the neighborhood of 100 pitches in each outing.
Thompson, who earned a World Series championship ring with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006, found what he was looking for with the Prospectors.
And, just as he said, he then contacted Goughan. Thompson was activated by the Bluefish July 27.
"He's had (six) years in the bigs total between the Cardinals and the Royals,'' Goughan said. "He's had some success there. He had Tommy John Surgery. But he's over it and he's ready to pitch. He straightened himself out (in Arizona) mechanically and (player/coach Luis) Rodriguez noticed a couple things here already to help him out as well too. We think he could be a good starter in this league right away.''
Thompson, whose primary pitch is a two-seam fastball, is 3-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts with the Bluefish.
He has 13 strikeouts and four walks in 19 1/3 innings. Among his 286 pitches (186), 65 percent have been strikes and he has a first-pitch strike percentage of .631.
Thompson made an impression immediately with a 97-pitch, seven-inning, complete-game performance in his debut July 29.
He allowed one run over six innings in an 11-1 win over the Camden Riversharks Friday.
"I'm looking for consistency and I think he'll give us that,'' Bluefish manager Willie Upshaw said.
"It's like his resume says ... He doesn't walk a lot of guys. He throws strikes and he lives with what he gets.''
Thompson, a 16th round pick by the Cardinals in 2002, has made 201 appearances (405 1/3 innings) in the big leagues with the Cardinals (2005-10) and the Royals (2010). He set a minor league record by working 57 straight scoreless innings at Class AA Tennessee in 2004.
One of the most memorable moments of Thompson's career was working two-thirds of an inning in Game 2 of the 2006 World Series against the Detroit Tigers.
"Unbelievable feeling,'' Thompson said. "Obviously, that's what you dream of as a little kid. You're in the backyard saying, `Hey, Game 6, Game 7 of the World Series.' So unbelievable experience. Glad I got to get in there and pitch a little bit in the Series. It was a great experience and it was something I'll never forget.''
Thompson said he is "very confident'' that his elbow problems are in the past. He feels as good as he has in a long time.
Regardless of what he has accomplished in the past, Thompson knows that being two years removed from surgery he has to again prove himself in an effort to get back into affiliated ball.
"If you look at my career I declined a little bit towards the end and I need to prove that I'm back healthy and I'm where I was before in my prime,'' Thompson said.
"I feel better than I have in a long time. The plan is keep pounding the strike zone, keep trying to get guys out and see what happens.''
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