The unlikely success story of Diamondbacks reliever Ryan Thompson

Oct 11, 2023, 10:49 AM

Diamondbacks reliever Ryan Thompson...

Arizona Diamondbacks RP Ryan Thompson, Giants at Diamondbacks September 21, 2023 (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

(Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)

Less than two months ago, Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Ryan Thompson was out of a job.

He had spent three years with the Tampa Bay Rays before he was designated for assignment on Aug. 16 and was released the next day.

Fast forward to October. Over the past week or so, he has been pitching in some of the highest-leverage situations that exist in baseball and has been lights out. In three appearances, he’s surrendered zero runs and one hit in 4.0 innings.

“I’m just trying to execute and give my team a chance to make a play behind me,” Thompson said after the D-backs’ 4-2 victory Monday over the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

His unlikely tale of 2023 postseason success is also a tale of perseverance and redemption.

Before arriving in the desert to play for the D-backs, the 31-year-old reliever had appeared in just more than 100 games in the big leagues with the Rays after arriving in Tampa in 2018 as a Rule 5 selection from the Houston Astros.

In 2020, he made his MLB debut and eventually helped pitch his team to the World Series, surrendering a paltry two earned runs in 9.1 innings in the postseason.

As 2021 began, the submariner Thompson was just as dominant. He had a 2.38 ERA in 34 innings, but right shoulder issues led to injuries and several stints on the injured list.

In September 2021, he had right thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

He made it back to the Rays for some stints with the big-league club in 2022 but was mostly shuttled between the Triple-A Durham Bulls and the injured list.

Early in 2023, it looked like Thompson might be back to 2020-21 form. Although he came out of the gates strong with a 2.35 ERA in 7.2 innings and eight appearances, May was not so kind.

In the season’s second month, Thompson again appeared in eight games but surrendered nine earned runs for an 11.05 ERA.

He was optioned to Durham again and made only two more appearances for the Rays.

That’s when the D-backs came calling.

Signed to a minor league contract on Aug. 19, he spent one week with the Reno Aces.

The rest, as they say, is living history. Since his first appearance in an Arizona uniform on Aug. 27 against the Cincinnati Reds, he’s given up just one run in 13 innings.

And if Thompson and the D-backs’ bullpen keep putting up zeroes, they will be very hard to beat.

“I think we have a real good thing going the last month or so. We are really confident in each other,” Thompson told reporters Tuesday. “Other teams are going to have to play their best baseball just to get one game from us.”

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