Thompson learning, excelling
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By Hal McCoy

Staff Writer

Saturday, March 15, 2008

SARASOTA, Fla. Daryl Thompson sits at the first locker to the left of the clubhouse entrance door, where he can see the comings and goings of everybody.

And he likes that because for the 22-year-old pitcher, this is a time to absorb everything he sees and feels.

At this time last year, Thompson was preparing for his assignment at Class A Dayton, where he quickly showed he was above and beyond that competition 5-0 with a 0.96 earned-run average in five starts.

"I really liked it in Dayton, a great place, had a lot of fun, but I wanted to get out of there," he said. That's no rip on Dayton, it is just that for baseball players, it is onward and upward.

Before Friday, March 14, Thompson had appeared in one inning, and it was against the New York Yankees. He struck out the side.

"It was a big, big thrill," he said. "My heart was pumping. I managed to calm myself down, even though the adrenaline is always going when I pitch. I managed not to rush and kept my composure."

In the 2006 trade of Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Ryan Wagner to the Washington Nationals, Thompson was a tag-along with Gary Majewski, Bill Bray, Royce Clayton, Brendan Harris. As the trade rumbles along, it appears Thompson could be the best of the acquisitions.

"I don't know about that, don't pay attention to that," he said. "Right now, I'm taking advantage of learning from big-league guys and see if they can help me out with my pitches. Plus this shows them how I can perform ... It's a test to see if I'm ready."

Thompson faced the Yanks again Friday and retired four in a row with one strikeout.

Homer on the hill

As manager Dusty Baker says, "It ain't easy being Homer Bailey."

Bailey starts today against the Red Sox, his second start this spring against Boston. His other start was against the Yankees. Baker, though, likes the attentiveness of his young pitching prodigy.

"The other day I suggested that he go to the end of the dugout and talk with Mario Soto," said Baker. "I looked down there and he was there the entire game. I liked that. That was like going to school for Homer."

Batter up, pitchers

Throughout these early exhibitions, the Reds have used a designated hitter and no pitcher has batted. That will change next week when Baker starts having the pitchers bat.

"I don't know if Edinson Volquez has ever hit or bunted," said Baker, realizing Volquez came from the American League. "He's been on one side of a 95 miles an hour fastball (his side), but not the other side (batting). He might have jelly legs."

Said Volquez, "Last time I batted I was very little. Never in pro ball. Don't know what's going to happen. I'll just go up there and swing at everything in the zone l and probably everything out of the zone."

Quote of the day

Former Reds pitcher Jack Billingham is in camp and when he was reminded that on the day he gave up Hank Aaron's 714th home run, tying Babe Ruth for most ever at the time, manager Dusty Baker was on deck, he said, "I wasn't looking to see who was on deck."