Thompson promoted to Cards, given revered No. 57

June 4th, 2022

CHICAGO -- Nearly 20 years after the Cardinals were in Chicago and staggered to their core by one of the most devastating losses in their history, the revered No. 57 has re-emerged in their clubhouse.

When left-hander Zack Thompson took the mound in Friday's 14-5 win over the Cubs, he became the first Cardinal to wear No. 57 since Darryl Kile, who shockingly passed away due to coronary artery disease. Kile, then 33 years old and in his prime as a starting pitcher for the Cardinals, was found dead in his hotel room before a day game on June 22, 2002. In addition to withholding No. 57 out of reverence to Kile, the Cardinals have celebrated the number by painting a remembrance on their bullpen.

Thompson, an intriguing reliever with swing-and-miss stuff, was added to the taxi squad on Thursday, but because of MLB regulations, he was not able to dress for the game. Thompson, 24 and a first-round Draft pick in 2019, understands the significance of wearing No. 57 for the Cardinals.

"It's definitely a humbling feeling," said Thompson, who was 2-2 with a 4.67 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings at Triple-A Memphis. "I can't really say what it feels like because I haven't worn the number yet. I know it will feel good, especially if it is here at Wrigley. I think that will mean a lot. I'm looking forward to the opportunity and living up to that number. "

Thompson's contract was selected on Friday morning, while right-hander Johan Oviedo was recalled from Memphis. To make room on the active roster, Matthew Liberatore and Kodi Whitley were optioned to Triple-A. Infielder Kramer Robertson was designated for assignment so Thompson could be added to the Cardinals' 40-man roster.

Thompson, a first-round Draft pick by the Cardinals in 2019, was the franchise’s ninth rookie to make his MLB debut this season. Because he pitched four innings of relief on Friday -- while striking out three and allowing just three hits and a run -- Thompson recorded his first MLB save. He was the first Cardinal to pitch four innings and pick up a save in an MLB debut in nearly 65 years.

“Honestly, I felt right at home at Wrigley, I had great defense behind me and [catcher Andrew Knizner] was great and they got me through it,” said Thompson, whose mother and father made the trip from Indiana to view their son’s debut. “I was told [Friday] morning to be ready for anything, and I was ready to go. Every inning I came in [to the dugout] they asked if I was good to go, and I was. So I kept going back out there.”

The Cards are very intrigued by the prospects of Thompson, who is ranked the club's No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline, bringing his strikeout stuff to their bullpen. Largely dependent on right-handers in their starting staff and bullpen, the club is in need of help from the left side with Steven Matz on the 15-day injured list, veteran T.J. McFarland struggling and Génesis Cabrera being overworked, according to manager Oliver Marmol.

In the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Thompson, the Cardinals have a southpaw who isn't afraid to challenge hitters with his overpowering stuff.

"When you think about what he's got coming out of that left side, we kind of want to see it up here [at the MLB level], whether it's over the weekend or at some point," Marmol said. "If there's a move to be made, we wanted to have that option. It's 97 [mph] and from the left side. If he can hone it in and throw strikes with it, you have a high-end left-handed pitcher, whether he's a starter or a reliever."