Four years ago, Ian Thomas was pitching alongside Clayton Kershaw — the best pitcher of his generation and one of the greatest left-handed hurlers in baseball history — as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Now, Thomas is a pitcher with the York Revolution, preparing for his first season of professional baseball since 2016 after taking two years off because of a shoulder injury.
"I'm going to be healthy," Thomas said. "I feel good. I want to eat up some innings and build my pitch count up. If I can stay healthy, everything will fall into place."
Thomas' career: Thomas, 32, pitched at NCAA Division I Virginia Commonwealth University. He then played three years in Winnipeg, Canada, for teams in the Northern League and the American Association.
In 2012, he signed with York and pitched well in his short stint. He struck out 12 batters and allowed one run in 9 1/3 innings, earning him a contract with the Atlanta Braves organization. Between Class A Rome and Class AA Mississippi in 2012 and 2013, Thomas continued to perform well.
He made the big-league club out of spring training in 2014 and pitched parts of two seasons in Atlanta and then in Los Angeles, where he was traded to in 2015. The southpaw has a 3.97 ERA and a 9.5 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate in his 34 career MLB innings.
Thomas said the best days as a big leaguer were "getaway days," when teams play their last game of a series and depart for another series in a different city the following day.
"The getaway days were the best," Thomas said, recalling the luxury of being an MLB player. "You don’t have to fly public. Everything is private. Your bags are packed for you, and all you have to worry about is eating. ... Everything in the big leagues is about convenience. It's all right there for you."
As a left-handed pitcher himself, Thomas said playing with and learning from Kershaw was a great experience.
"He’s a true professional," Thomas said. "I watched him every day from his first day after a start to 'Kersh Day' when he starts. I wouldn’t be right on him about it, but I would stay back in the shadows and see how he does it."
Back with the Revs: Thomas was designated for assignment and released by the Dodgers in 2016. He said his shoulder pain that started in 2014 caught up with him that season. He got an MRI after a short stint in the Dominican Winter League in 2016 and had surgery early in 2017 for a torn posterior labrum in his throwing shoulder.
"I tried to come back sooner than I should have and aggravated it, so that took more time," Thomas said. "I feel well enough to compete now. I don’t have any pain or restrictions."
Revs manager Mark Mason said he's excited to have Thomas back after seven years.
"He’s kept himself in great shape, and he's healthy," Mason said. "It’s nice to know that we’re thought of highly enough that these guys have no issues about coming back."
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.