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Thompson working out of the Bullpen

Eddie Altamonte

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10/23/08 12:35 PM ET


Thompson getting work out of the 'pen

Prospect adding to versatility in Arizona Fall League

By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com


MIAMI -- Loaded with young pitching throughout the organization, the Marlins are figuring out ways to maximize their talent.

One option being utilized now is working 21-year-old left-hander Aaron Thompson out of the bullpen.


Projected as a starter, Thompson is seeing action as a reliever for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.


Thompson, one of Florida's five first-round picks in 2005, is being groomed much like right-hander Ryan Tucker, who was taken in the same Draft.


A hard thrower, Tucker saw action with the Gulf Coast League Marlins this year, but he spent most of the season at Double-A Carolina. He was used initially used as a starter before being asked to relieve.


Thompson has 75 career Minor League appearances under his belt, and he's started 74 times. His only relief appearance came at Class A Jupiter in 2007.


Already in the Arizona Fall League, he's appeared in four games and logged six innings, allowing one run, while walking four and striking out four.


"Aaron is working out of the bullpen," said Jim Fleming, the Marlins' vice president of player development and scouting. "It's not a change in direction. It's expanding his options -- the same thing we did with Tucker. We still see Aaron as a starter. And we still see Tucker as a starter. We want the ability to use these young guys in the 'pen or in the rotation."


With Thompson, the Marlins are trying to avoid what they did with Tucker this season -- give him his first real relief experience at the big league level.


"That's not fair to them," Fleming said. "The whole reason for this in the Fall League is to expose him to the bullpen."


When Thompson heads to Spring Training, he will have a chance to make the Marlins either as a starter or a reliever. Considering the starting pitching the Marlins have returning, rotation spots are limited.


Barring any trades, the Marlins now are have six starters for five rotation spots: Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad, Scott Olsen and Andrew Miller.


Additionally, Tucker, Rick VandenHurk, Burke Badenhop and Frankie De La Cruz all made starts for Florida in 2008.


Giving Thompson the flexibility to be a reliever enhances his value to the organization.


"Because we have so much pitching depth, it allows us to use these guys in the bullpen like we did Tucker for a while, to help the big league club, and get their feet wet into the big leagues," Fleming said. "Then we can transition them into the rotation, if we like, when they are ready.


"We have seven, eight, nine starters now who are either in the big leagues or ready to pitch in the big leagues. We just want to be able to utilize our main guys. Aaron and Tucker are both ready to pitch in the big leagues. Their stuff is good enough. They're getting ready."


Pitchers in the Arizona Fall League are working in a protected environment. Thompson won't be asked to come in during the middle of an inning, and he won't throw on back-to-back days.


Still, the lefty will get a feel for what it is like to work one or perhaps two innings.


The Marlins are well represented at the Arizona Fall League, and first baseman Logan Morrison is back in action after missing a few days with a foot injury.


Through seven games, Morrison is batting .423 with a home run. Initially, he was used as the designated hitter, but now he is returning to the field.


Outfielder John Raynor continues to post strong numbers in Arizona, batting .364 through 33 at-bats with a home run and 10 RBIs. He's already hit for the cycle. Raynor, who has great speed, is strong defensively. He's also stolen four bases.


A pitching prospect to keep an eye on is right-hander Tim Wood, a 25-year-old with a mid-90s fastball.


A 44th-round pick in 2002, Wood has battled through Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, plus a follow-up procedure to clean out his elbow. Now healthy, he's getting closer to being big league-ready.


"He's a guy who has been with us a while," Fleming said. "He's lost some time, but he's always had very good arm. He throws anywhere from 93-96 mph with a hard slider. He's a bullpen guy, and a really interesting guy."


At Class A Jupiter, Wood was 5-2 in 40 innings, and he made one start. Late in the season, he was promoted to Carolina, where he had 12 relief appearances.


"We added some more upper-level innings for him, because he is approaching being ready to pitch in the big leagues," Fleming said


It appears The Marlins will attempt to revamp their bullpen with young arms such as Thompson

I get a feeling the Marlins want Tucker in the rotation, maybe both Olsen and Sanchez will be traded.

For those that have stated that Raynor is poor or "indifferent" as an outfielder, hopefully this may put that issue to rest

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