This feature appeared in the Nov. 18, 2001, edition of the Yuma (Arizona) Sun.
Thrower ready for big show
Now healthy, former Yuma High standout eager for his shot with a Major League club
By Ed M. Odeven
SPECIAL TO THE SUN
PEORIA — Just days after his 26th birthday, Jake Thrower embodies the eagerness of a kid yearning to spend all day, every day at the ballpark.
Fortunately, Thrower’s job permits him to do that: A prospect in the San Diego Padres organization, he’s playing second base for the Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League.
“I’m ready to play wherever they want me to play, whenever they want me to play,” Thrower said before a recent afternoon game against the Maryvale Saguaros at the Peoria Sports Complex.
Thrower, whose birthday is Monday, split the 2001 regular season playing for the Class AA Mobile BayBears of the Southern League and the Class AAA Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League with mixed success. In his short stint in Portland, Thrower hit .204 in 15 games. While in Mobile he batted .272 with 25 doubles, four home runs and 31 RBIs in 103 games.
It was a season in which Thrower regained strength in his left knee — he had season-ending knee surgery in May 2000 — and regained the opportunity to do what he loves to do.
“It’s nice to go out there and play. Sitting around with injuries is no fun. I get real anxious to put on the uniform and play. I love to play,” thrower said, adding that the current AFL season is like spring training for him because it enables him to hone his skills without the pressures of the regular season such as a late-season pennant chase.
Playing for Javelinas manager Duane Espy is nothing entire new for Thrower. Espy was Thrower’s manager in 2000 when Thrower briefly played with the Las Vegas Stars, then the San Diego Padres’ AAA club.
Espy spent last season as the Padres’ hitting coach. His knowledge of hitting is something that Thrower says is rubbing off of him.
“It’s great to have Espy here,” Thrower said. “He knows so much about hitting and how to make guys better with their approach to hitting. It’s the little things that he’s able to point out to the guys.”
Thrower, a switch-hitter, has put up respectable numbers with the Javelinas. Through Tuesday, he was bating .263 with one homer and seven RBIs. He had scored 14 runs and stolen two bases in 21 games.
Espy said Thrower has been a solid day-in, day-out performer during this fall campaign, which wrapped up this week.
“I’ve liked the consistency in his play,” the manager said. “He’s very steady defensively. He’s made some nice adjustments offensively with the bat and just the consistency of when you put him in there you know he’s going to make the play, you know he’s going to make contact.
“You know he’s going to do the little things that are productive in winning ballgames. Basically, more than anything, that’s what has stood out.”
Versatility is another vital aspect of Thrower’s game. He’s comfortable playing all four infield positions.
Or as Espy said, “He’s a versatile guy. He can play anywhere in the infield, obviously as a switch-hitter who’s been a productive hitter from both sides of the plate.”
Espy added that Thrower has the skills to be a major-leaguer, but he’s uncertain when that opportunity will occur.
“I’m not smart enough to look at guys and say, ‘This guy this, this guy that.’ I know he’s got the type of tools that would allow him to play at the major league level,” Espy said. “Now whether he plays good enough with those tools or consistently enough that somebody, whether it’s us or another organization takes a chance at putting him in that setting, I don’t know. I think Jake’s capable.”
Thrower says he’s love to make the Padres’ opening-day roster. But if that doesn’t happen, he’d be just as thrilled to play for another major league ballclub in 2002.