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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Tahnaj Thomas: Bullpen Role Helping Focus On Throwing Strikes

ALTOONA, Pa. – Making the switch from starter to reliever isn’t something that everyone can pick up right away. It’s a completely different mentality to get called out of the bullpen in the middle of the game as opposed to going into the day knowing you were going to start the game.

“Whenever your name is called, you’ve got to be ready.” Tahnaj Thomas told Pirates Prospects about switching to the bullpen this season for the Altoona Curve.

Thomas had started every game he had played since joining the Pirates system in 2019, after coming over from the then Cleveland Indians in the Erik Gonzalez trade. He’s been coming out the bullpen for the majority of the season for the Curve.

The switch from starter to reliever isn’t the first change he’s made, as Thomas is also a converted pitcher, making the switch upon turning pro. 

As he had growing pains learning to pitch, it also came from his early time coming out of the bullpen.

“Early on it was tough,” Thomas said. “Early on I didn’t really know when to get myself prepared, when to be ready, what to expect.”

The righty credited some of the others in the bullpen with helping him make the adjustments, like when to start getting ready for a possible appearance and what kind of pregame preparations they made on gameday.

“Just talking to a lot of guys in the bullpen, learning from guys who had done it before, seeing how they get prepared to come into the game, and how they get prepared for the day,” said Thomas. “I think that kind of helped me this year to fit into the role.”

Thomas has always had natural raw talent on the mound, capable of reaching triple digits in the past with his fastball, but struggled with his control.

Those struggles forced a midseason ‘shutdown’ while in Greensboro so they could fine tune his mechanics. When he returned it was better, but his strikeout numbers took a hit, which was expected as he learned to dial it back some to get back some of the control.

This season his strikeout rate is higher than it was in Greensboro, while cutting back on the walks, keeping a walk rate less than 10% currently.

That was part of the plan that Thomas and the coaching staff made coming into the season, and why he has been having so much success in his current role.

“I know coming in to the season, me and the staff talked about filling up the zone, trying to throw as much strikes as possible with all of my pitches,” Thomas said. “I think that’s what helped me with most of my success. Just been growing and learning from a lot of the guys in the bullpen, and using that mentality, and just keep success coming, and keep learning, keep growing.”

Even with the success he’s had in the bullpen, he doesn’t discount the opportunity of returning to the rotation and seems ready should it come up again.

“This year was kind of like an experiment,” said Thomas. “Just to get me freed up, just to get me back to where I used to be. I’ve just got to keep progressing, keep learning, keep going. Once that time comes, I’ll be ready.”



By Anthony Murphy

Williams: Scouting Talent, Scouting People

Quinn Priester: Confidence Paves Path To Success On The Mound

Kyle Nicolas: Attacks Hitters Base Off ‘Feel’ On The Mound

Maintaining Focus on the Mound is Key To The Highest Level

Luis Ortiz: Focus On ‘Filling Zone’, Force Hitters To Cheat On Fastball

Tahnaj Thomas: Bullpen Role Helping Focus On Throwing Strikes

J.C. Flowers: Athleticism Allows Righty To Be A Quick Study On The Mound


By Tim Williams

Williams: Exquisite Corpse

Endy Rodriguez is Looking Like the Best Prospect in the Pirates System

Liover Peguero Needs to Control His Talent

Jon Nunnally Discusses the Hitting Development Approach in Altoona

Why is Nick Gonzales Struggling to Make Contact?

Blake Sabol: A Prospect Development Story

Aaron Shackelford: “It’s definitely been a growing season, mentally”

+ posts

Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.


Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

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As with Flowers I can see Thomas making his way to Pittsburgh next season.

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