By Scott Taylor, Winnipeg Goldeyes
Former Winnipeg Goldeyes lefthander Ian Thomas has been named to the Atlanta Braves’ 25-man roster. He becomes the ninth former Goldeyes player to reach the Major Leagues.
It is an incredible feat for the 26-year-old graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, who showed up at Braves spring training in February as a non-roster invitee. He entered camp as one of four left-handed relievers with a shot to grab the final specialist’s job in the bullpen and Friday morning he was told he’d won the job.
And there is no doubt that he won it. Thomas went 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA. He struck out 13 batters (tied for fourth on the team this spring) despite pitching only 11 innings. Opposing batters hit just .194 against him. In the last week of the spring, he beat out his remaining competition – Ryan Buchter and Atahualpa Severino, who both entered camp on the Braves 40-man roster.
Thomas has had a meteoric rise through the Braves system since leaving Winnipeg in 2011. He’s made the mound at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista his own this spring and has impressed his coaches with his velocity and tenacity.
Even Goldeyes manager Rick Forney is on the Thomas bandwagon.
“I think it’s great that Ian is getting this opportunity,” Forney said recently. “He arrived fresh out of college and became a pretty good pitcher with us. He has a lot of ability and can throw strikes. He has confidence in all his pitches and he possesses a really sneaky fastball. He’s a good pitcher.
“And this says a lot about the Braves. They’ve looked very hard at independent baseball and given a lot of experienced guys a second chance at a big league career. Ian is one of the beneficiaries of the Braves confidence in guys who have come to play and pitch in indy ball. I’m really impressed with that organization right now.”
Thomas, who turns 27 on April 20, started his professional career in Winnipeg and learned to be a pitcher at Shaw Park. He went 0-1 with a solid 2.81 ERA in a partial rookie season after he finished his career at VCU in 2009. In 2010, he went 5-1 with a terrific 1.64 ERA and in 2011, he was 6-3 with a 2.20 earned run average. He pitched the start of 2012 with York in the Atlantic League, but was signed by the Braves and was immediately sent to Class A in Rome, Ga.
After a 5-0 season with Rome, he moved up to Class AA last year and went 7-8 with a 2.76 ERA with Mississippi in the Southern League.
Thomas joins Mike Cather, Jeff Sparks, Jeff Zimmerman, Bryan Myrow, Bobby Madritsch, George Sherrill, Korecky and Kintzler as Goldeyes who have reached the Major Leagues.