The Press Newspaper
Justin Thomas makes big move to Triple A Tacoma
Former Clay and Youngstown State pitching standout Justin Thomas is one step closer to the Major Leagues. One baseball writer expects him to be pitching with the Seattle Mariners by the end of the season.
The 24-year-old 6’3, 220 pound Thomas has been promoted by the Seattle Mariners from the Double A West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx (Southern League) to the Triple A Tacoma Rainiers (Pacific Coast League). In five games in relief at Tacoma, he has a 1-1 record, 5.40 ERA, 14 strikeouts, and seven walks in relief.
Thomas had been a starter at West Tennessee, but reportedly ran into some arm issues last season. Since then, he has recovered and pitched in relief, giving up only two earned runs in his last four outings.
In his PCL debut against Fresno, Thomas got rocked pretty hard, giving up five earned runs and six hits in five innings pitched, taking the loss. Since then, he has virtually shot down Sacramento and Portland in three series, appearing against Portland three times in four days and allowing only one earned run.
After the 2007 season, Thomas was to have surgery for a strained left elbow.
At West Tennessee, he began the 2008 season (April 6-May 2) on the disabled list, making 24 starts with West Tennessee after being activated. He was third on the Diamond Jaxx team with 100 strikeouts and fourth with 119.1 innings pitched.
In one outing, he allowed three hits while walking two and striking out six in a season high eight scoreless innings for the win. Against Huntsville during the season, he struck out at least five batters 11 times, including a season-high seven strikeouts on July 5. Before being promoted, Thomas allowed three or less earned runs in 14 starts, while recording six quality starts.
“The Mariners have long believed in Thomas’ abilities, but the command problems and a bout with a shoulder pain last season have held up his development. Right now, Thomas seems to be hitting his stride and putting himself into position to be called up to the big leagues sometimes in 2008,” writes Jason A. Churchill for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in his Mariners Farm Report column.
Before the 2007 season, Thomas pitched his first two innings at the major league level for the Seattle Mariners, and both innings at the Mariners’ spring training site in Scottsdale, Ariz. against the San Diego Padres were perfect.
Thomas allowed no base runners during the fifth and sixth innings, including back-to-back strikeouts of Terrmel Sledge and ex-Mariner Mike Cameron. Thomas’s performance, according to mlb.com, caught the attention of then-Mariners manager Mike Hargrove.
In 2006, he was the California League Pitcher of the Week and voted by MiLB.com the Class A Advanced Best Playoff Performer. Thomas was a combined 14-9 in ‘06 with Class A Wisconsin and the Inland Empire 66ers in San Bernadino, California.
Thomas was the game one starter in two postseason series for the 66ers in leading the team to its second California League championship in four years. He struck out 17 hitters in 13 scoreless innings in the postseason.
Thomas was the Mariners’ fourth round selection in the June 2005 draft. At Youngstown State, he was named the 2005 Horizon League Pitcher of the Year and was First Team All-League in 2005.
While at Youngstown State, Thomas finished his three-year career ranking second all-time in career strikeouts with 250 — one behind former major leaguer Dave Dravecky.
Thomas, 22 was a first-team All-Great Lakes League and all-district pitcher at Clay, and the Eagles’ career home run leader.