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05-01-2008, 02:58 AM
Chattanooga: Thompson is early star for Lookouts

By: David Paschall

There is no debating the early MVP for the Chattanooga Lookouts, who wrapped up a 16-10 opening month with a 14-7 win Wednesday afternoon at Mississippi.

“Daryl Thompson, no doubt about it,” pitcher Sam LeCure said. “He’s throwing strikes, and the rare time he does get in trouble, he makes a good pitch to get a guy to pop up in the infield and then strikes the next guy out. He’s been pretty neat to watch and has been the most impressive guy, and I don’t think anybody would argue with that.”

Manager Mike Goff certainly doesn’t, admitting, “He’s made our job really easy.”

The 22-year-old Thompson has made five starts, and all five have been dazzling. His record is only 2-1 because of inconsistent run support, but he has an 0.57 ERA in 31.1 innings pitched and has racked up 36 strikeouts against just four walks.

“I wouldn’t want to change anything,” Thompson said of his start. “I feel pretty good with everything I have.”

Thompson has been mentioned as a second option to Triple-A Louisville’s Homer Bailey should the Cincinnati Reds delve into their farm system to help their big-league rotation. LeCure has played with Bailey and Thompson and said the two are similar in that they throw hard and go right after people.

Last Friday at AT&T Field marked a big step in Thompson’s development, as he threw 113 pitches and was an out away from completing eight innings. That was the longest professional stint for the 6-foot, 180-pounder, who admitted he had gone past the sixth inning just two previous times since signing with the Montreal Expos in 2003.

Thompson was acquired by Cincinnati as part of an eight-player trade with the Washington Nationals in July 2006.

“He’s gotten off to a good start in these five- and six-inning stints,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said, “but we need to get to that 21- or 24-out barrier continuously before we consider him for the rotation or even a spot start, for that matter, in Cincinnati. But as of right now, he’s done everything that we’ve asked and has been a breath of fresh air.

“Our motto is any pitch at any time, and Daryl fits that mold.”

There have been numerous bright spots offensively, highlighted by the bats of outfielders Shaun Cumberland, Sean Henry and B.J. Szymanski. Cumberland is hitting .355 with four home runs and eight RBIs, Henry .342 with two homers and 10 RBIs, and Szymanski .291 with a team-leading five homers and 15 RBIs.

Cumberland and Henry finished up last season in Chattanooga, but this has been the Double-A debut for Szymanski, Cincinnati’s second-round pick in 2004.

“It’s great to say that I can do this and that it’s not a fluke,” Szymanski said. “I’m an older guy who’s had trouble in the past with health problems. It’s been the most fun I’ve had playing, and winning games doesn’t hurt.”

Chattanooga has quickly mastered the close contests, winning its last five one-run games and rallying from a 7-0 deficit Wednesday to win in 10 innings.

The biggest surprise in Chattanooga’s first month has been its power. The Lookouts own a league-leading 26 home runs, an average of one per game.

“That’s been a shock,” Goff said. “If you had told me that we’d be leading the league in home runs after the first month, I’d have said you’re crazy. These guys are picking each other up every night, and we’re getting the big home run when we need it.”