No team in recent years has been as successful at scouting and signing players from the Far East as the Boston Red Sox.
In landing Matt Thompson, the Red Sox went far West, and the young right-hander is proof that scouting the little-known baseball gold mine called Idaho certainly is a worthwhile endeavor.
Thompson was downright dominating for the GreenJackets in a 1-0 victory over the Capital City Bombers on Saturday. The 19-year-old flamethrower pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits, a walk and seven strikeouts, lifting the Jackets to their sixth win in eight games.
The Jackets (15-9) also ran into another solid pitching performance for Capital City, this time from New York Mets' first-round pick Bob Keppel.
But their lone run in the fourth, on an RBI-double by Bryan Barnowski, was plenty for Thompson and the bullpen.
"Tonight was a combination of great defense behind me and making pitches when I had to," said Thompson, Boston's fourth pick in the 1999 draft out of Timberline High School in Boise. "And I have to give credit to the guys who came in after me. They did a great job closing the door."
Thompson mixed a 94 mph fastball with an outstanding curveball and change-up to improve to 3-1 and drop his ERA to 1.80.
In his first full pro season, location and big-league velocity has fueled his success. In five starts (30 innings), Thompson has surrendered just 15 hits and three walks with 26 strikeouts.
"The command of his stuff is what's really impressive to me," Jackets manager Mike Boulanger said. "He has the `Uncle Charlie' curveball to go with a good change and good fastball. I thought he was outstanding. He's been one of our most consistent pitchers."
For proof that Idaho indeed is rich in baseball talent, look no further than the 1999 draft. Thompson was one of three players from Timberline High drafted that year. Boston also drafted Thompson's prep teammate, left-hander Nicolas Puckett, in the 23rd round, but Puckett did not sign.
"I'll tell you what; people would be surprised by the prospects we have in Idaho," Thompson said. "The prospects in Idaho match just about anyone else."
But being from Idaho means a steady diet of ribbing from teammates that Thompson has been forced to endure.
After Saturday's game, someone suggest that the zeros on the scoreboard for the Bombers should be called `potatoes' instead of the traditional `goose eggs.'
"You have no idea you how many jokes I've heard," Thompson said with a laugh. "I live in Boise. It's a city. There are no potato fields anywhere."
|GAME REPORT: Jackets 1, Bombers 0|
Player of the game: Jackets starter Matt Thompson pitched seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits while fanning seven, to improve to 3-1.
Turning point: Jackets catcher Bryan Barnowski laced a two-out double down the left-field line off of Bombers starter Bob Keppel, driving in Justin Sherrod for the game's only run.
Ballpark fun: Georgia Lottery Ticket Giveaway contestant Holly Harper threw a perfect strike on the ceremonial first pitch to win 50 instant lottery tickets.
Today's game: Off day.