BY DEAN HOCKNEY
(This story appears in the August 23 edition of the Sports Journal.)
CINCINNATI – Following a stellar 2010 campaign with the San Diego Padres, 2011 has been a disappointment for Joe Thatcher after undergoing surgery during the pre-season. But things are looking up for the 2000 Kokomo High School graduate. After successful surgery and rehabilitation, the southpaw setup relief pitcher is throwing strikes and ready to contribute to his Major League Baseball team.
“The rehab went as good as possible,” said Thatcher, who has picked up the moniker Prime Minister from his teammates. “Once we decided to have surgery in early May, they said if everything went right it would be three months or so before I would be back. I worked hard with our trainers and therapists and made it back in those three months.”
In 2010, the lefty was an integral part of the Padres bullpen during their run for the post-season. He held an ERA of 1.29 in 65 appearances, and gave up just one run in his final 40 outings. But during Spring Training this year, Thatcher complained of soreness in his throwing shoulder, eventually having surgery to shave down his left labrum, rotator cuff and move an inflamed bursa sac.
Thankfully the surgery did not include repairing a full labrum tear, and the former Wildkat was able to return to the hill to pitch one inning for Lake Elsinore, a Padres Single-A affiliate. He then pitched in eight Triple-A games for the Tucson Padres before returning to the Big Leagues on August 5. During his minor league rehabilitation assignment, Thatcher recorded a 1.08 ERA with 12 strikeouts in 8.1 innings.
“Once I got to wear I was throwing off a mound again, I had to go pitch in some minor league games and it felt good being back again,” said Thatcher. “I was throwing the ball well in Triple-A and I was ready to get back up to the Big Leagues.