After 1,388 games in the minors, Thompson makes a major-league lineup

Rich Thompson started games in Dunedin and Syracuse, in New Haven and Nashville, in Indianapolis and Altoona.

He went from Double-A to Triple-A and back, and then to Triple-A again.

He went from the Blue Jays organization to the Pirates to the Padres to the Royals to the Pirates to the Diamondbacks to the Red Sox to the Phillies.

He spent 13 years and 1,388 games in the minor leagues, and six games and one lonesome at-bat in the majors.

Six games, one at-bat, eight years ago. So long ago that you could almost forget that in that one at-bat, he swung at the first pitch and grounded into a double play . . . off Tim Laker, a catcher who was pitching.

Six games, one at-bat, eight years ago. That was it -- until now.

The Rays traded for Thompson on Wednesday, and Thursday night Joe Maddon put him in the lineup in left field.

After all those years and all those games in all those minor-league outposts, 33-year-old Rich Thompson is finally going to start a major-league game.

In a year where Jamie Moyer has won two games at age 49, this might be the best story in baseball.

The Rays picked up Thompson because they have three injured outfielders, Brandon Guyer, Desmond Jennings and Sam Fuld (who was last year's great story). They picked him up because he's fast enough to play center field.

His speed has always been his biggest asset. It helped him get drafted by the Blue Jays in the sixth round in 2000. It helped him make the Royals roster in 2004.

Five times that April manager Tony Pena used him as a pinch runner. He stole one base.

He helped Brian Anderson get a win. That's Brian Anderson, the Rays television analyst.

Then he went back to Nashville, back to the minor leagues, back on a journey that took him to Queens and Reading and Lehigh Valley.

And now to Tampa Bay, to the big leagues, to a major-league lineup for the first time ever.

What a story.
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