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Thayer had memorable season out of 'pen

SAN DIEGO -- There was so much to digest from his first full season in the Major Leagues that San Diego reliever Dale Thayer actually had some trouble recalling one of his biggest highlights of his season: the time in May when he filled in for injured closer Huston Street.

"That was so long ago now that I can't really remember it," Thayer said, smiling. "I never really planned on being in that position. I just tired to have fun with it and not put too much pressure on myself ... and just go out and close games."

Saving five games in as many opportunities during a blissful 12-day stretch in May when Street was on the disabled list was just one highlight for the 31-year-old Thayer, who spent nearly the entire season with the Padres on the big league roster.

Thayer -- who was recalled from Triple-A Tucson on April 26 -- finished third on the team in appearances (64) behind Brad Brach (67) and Luke Gregerson (77), and was 2-2 with a 3.43 ERA and seven saves while pitching in about every role imaginable out of the bullpen.

Better still, Thayer, who will turn 32 on Dec. 17, figures to be in the mix for a spot in the bullpen during Spring Training after impressing manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley with his results. He also proved how unflappable he could be, especially in high-leverage situations.

Thayer gave up no runs in 53 of his 64 appearances.

"I'm happy with as many innings as I got and how I did," Thayer said. "There are always ups and downs, but I learned from those. When I did struggle, I tried to think about the times that I pitched well ... and what I did to be successful.

"I didn't have a lot of bad outings in a row, but it was when I had one bad outing when I gave up two or three runs. That's what got me."

Thayer was hardly a stranger to closing games, which is part of the reason why Black opted to stick him in that role after Street landed on the disabled list, one of two DL stints the All-Star would have during the regular season.

Thayer accumulated 173 saves in the Minors, and one save with the Rays in 2009. He entered the season with 23 games at the big league level -- 11 with the Rays in '09, one more with them in '10 and then 11 games with the Mets in '11. He signed a Minor League contract with the Padres last December.

Unlike other rookie relievers who bounced back and forth between San Diego and Tucson, Thayer was able to stick once he got here. The reason was simple: he got outs more often than not, regardless of whatever role he was in.

"It's been an exciting year," Thayer said. "The biggest thing is staying up here and being on the team for almost the entire year. The roles changed, but it's still pitching. As long as I'm up here, it doesn't matter what role I'm in.

"It feels good to have the confidence of the coaches to put you in that situation."

There was really only one time when the Padres didn't (or couldn't) lean on Thayer for big innings -- in August, when he was briefly placed on the paternity list when his wife, Lisa, went into labor early. But everything was fine, as daughter Ella Grace was born in the early hours of Aug. 24.

It was yet another highlight, one to top what was a big year for Thayer.

"She [Ella Grace] wasn't supposed to come until after the year, but she came early. Everything is good with her," Thayer said. "It was all pretty exciting."

San Diego Padres, Dale Thayer