It was recently reported by Pedro Velazco of the Kokomo Tribune that former Friars’ reliever, Joe Thatcher, has called it quits.
The man who had been a lefty specialist in the San Diego Padres pen a few seasons ago has put an end to his MLB career.
Thatcher spent parts of seven seasons with the San Diego Padres as a member of their bullpen. The man from Kokomo, Indiana started his journey in Independent Baseball where he played for River City in the Frontier League. Then in 2005, Joe Thatcher would get his big shot, as the Milwaukee Brewers would sign the lefty to a major league deal. He moved quickly through their system, starting out in rookie ball at the age of 23. Thatcher would never make it to the majors with the Brew Crew, though. It was not until 2007 that Thatcher’s MLB career would start with the Friars. Thatcher, along with Steve Garrison and Will Inman, were traded to the San Diego Padres for Scott Linebrink.
Much like his retirement, the trade wouldn’t necessarily make headlines. Thatcher has always just flown under the radar. Scott Linebrink had been a great bullpen arm for the Friars for about five years. He would post a sub-three ERA in over 300 games for the team. The trade would really end up working in the Padres favor, as they would get a solid lefty bullpen arm for the next seven seasons.
Thatcher would immediately look great in his first cup of coffee in the Major Leagues. The Indiana hurler would pitch in 22 games out of the pen, and would record a minuscule ERA of 1.29 for the year. 2008 would be a turn of fate for Joe Thatcher. The lefty reliever would have it really rough that year, posting a 8.42 ERA in 25 games. Thatcher would spend most of the year in Triple-A with the now extinct Portland Beavers to work on his craft.
Thatcher would have some pretty interesting teammates throughout his career. That 2008 Portland team would be full of characters and relevant figures in the future of the Padres organization. Guys like Will Venable, Chase Headley, and Nick Hundley would be part of that 2008 Beavers team. One of the most interesting guys had to be Dirk Hayhurst. The now MLB network personality and author was teammates with Joe Thatcher on that 2008 Portland Beavers team.
While the 2008 season was not one to remember in the career of Joe Thatcher, it certainly had to be an interesting one. Let’s not forget that he would also pitch alongside future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman in the big leagues as well. The man from Kokomo would really benefit from his time in Portland as he would go on to have the two best seasons of his career in 2009 and 2010 for the Friars.
2009 was a time of transition for the Friars. The legend, Trevor Hoffman, was now in Milwaukee. The colorful Heath Bell would now be the top dog in the Padres pen. Thatcher would enjoy success during this time. In 2009, Thatcher would post a 2.80 ERA in 52 games in San Diego. 2010 would turn out to be the lefty’s career year though as Thatcher would be spectacular posting a 1.29 ERA in 65 games.
2011 and 2012 would turn out to be down years for the lefty specialist. After his “career” year, Thatcher would be plagued with high ERAs and injuries in the next couple of years. However, Thatcher would complete a very nice personal achievement in the 2012 season. In 405 games out of the bullpen Joe Thatcher would only achieve one save in his MLB career. That save would come on July 2 of 2012. Clayton Richard was one out away from a complete game, but with two runners on base and a 5-3 game against the Diamondbacks, Bud Black did not want to risk it. With a lefty in Jason Kubel at the plate, the lefty specialist Joe Thatcher would be called in to pitch. Thatcher would end up with the best possible outcome as he would strike out Kubel to secure the win and to secure his first and only Major League save.
2013 would mark the end of Thatcher’s time with the San Diego Padres. He was having a great season posting a 2.10 ERA in 50 games, but Kevin Towers, now with the Diamondbacks, was in need of a lefty for his bullpen. Towers, of course, was very familiar with the Padres and Joe Thatcher. On July 31, 2013, Thatcher was shipped off to Arizona with Matt Stites for RHP Ian Kennedy. This trade, much like the trade that brought Thatcher to the Padres, would really work out for the Padres.
Ian Kennedy was a solid figure in the Padres rotation over three years posting a 3.97 ERA in 73 games. Thatcher would go on to play in the big leagues until 2015. He would play with the DBacks, Angels, and Astros. In 2016, the Indiana native would bounce around playoff team’s minor league systems, playing with affiliates from the Dodgers, Indians, and the World Champion Cubs.
Joe Thatcher will be always be remembered as a part of those untouchable bullpens the Padres once had, with the likes of Mike Adams, Cla Meredith, Ernesto Frieri, Edward Mujica, and Heath Bell. Thatcher will be remembered by San Diegan millennials like myself who remember him and other obscure players of the era, like the Hairston brothers, Jody Gerut, Kevin Kouzmanoff, David Eckstein, and the whole Padres’ bunch of that era. Joe Thatcher has stated that he hopes to remain active in baseball, helping out young players from Kokomo. He is always looking to give back to the sport he loves.