Every Major League debut is fraught with nerves, but I can’t imagine a more stressful situation than the one Aaron Thompson was in this afternoon. Making his big league debut after spending parts of seven seasons in the minors, part of Thompson had to be wondering if today was the only big league shot he was ever going to get. He’s been in Double-A since 2008 and he’s had trouble progressing past the level and he really only started thanks to a rash of injuries, a double-header, and the Pirates unwillingness to throw a better prospect into fire. Imagine you’re in his shoes: you get the chance you’ve been waiting for your whole life, but you can’t help and wonder if this is the only shot you’re going to get. You’re facing down the hottest team in the National League, the team that owns your team so thoroughly that when fans joke about the Brewers having some sort of supernatural hold over the Pirates’, they’re only half-kidding.
And then, the kid went out and fires 4 1/3 scoreless innings against the Brewers. He struck out Prince Fielder in a big spot for his first big league strikeout. He did everything the Pirates needed him to do today and then he did a little bit more. Then he had to sit in the dugout for 4 2/3 innings, watching the bullpen, wondering if they were going to hold a slim lead. He couldn’t get a win in the box score, but I somehow doubt that matters to him a whole lot right now.
I don’t know if Aaron Thompson will be back in a Pirate uniform. Brad Lincoln and Ross Ohlendorf will (and should) get the two open rotation spots right now, and Thompson will go back to the minors. Next year, Jeff Locke and Rudy Owens will (and should) get calls before him. Maybe he’ll make a step forward next year or reinvent himself as a LOOGY. He’s not thinking about that today, though, and he shouldn’t be. He did everything he could’ve done today and he helped the Pirates win a game and nothing can change that now.
Congrats, Aaron Thompson. I hope we see you again some day.