A slew of injuries have beset the St. Louis Cardinals, but it turned into an opportunity for former Knoxville Bearden High School standout Lane Thomas, who made his big-league debut Wednesday.
Thomas, ranked the seventh best prospect in the Cardinals’ system by both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline, was called up from the Class AAA Memphis Redbirds when the Cardinals’ starting center fielder, Harrison Bader, was placed on the 10-day injured list Wednesday.
Thomas’ time may be limited, however, because Bader’s injury is not considered serious.
Thomas was promoted for defensive purposes, and sure enough, he was placed in the lineup Wednesday afternoon in the late innings in Milwaukee. Thomas replaced right fielder Jose Martinez in the fifth spot of the lineup but played center field. Center fielder Dexter Fowler moved to right field when Thomas took over in center. The Cardinals won the game 6-3. Thomas did not appear at the plate.
Bader suffered a hamstring injury Saturday in Mexico where the Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds played a special two-game series.
Thomas was hitting .229 after 11 games in Memphis.
In its scouting report on Thomas, Baseball America says, “He positions himself well, gets good jumps, and is a plus runner underway, nabbing anything hit in his zone. His above-average arm is another weapon.”
Thomas is one Cardinal prospect who did not begin in the St. Louis organization. He was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the fifth round in 2014 and signed for $750,000. The Cardinals got Thomas from the Blue Jays for cash in 2017.
Last year, Thomas hit 21 home runs for AA Springfield in the Texas League before being promoted to Memphis where he hit six more. He hit .260 in Springfield and .275 in Memphis.
Thomas becomes the second player from Bearden to appear in the major leagues. The first was Mike Difelice, who played in the major leagues from 1996-2008, as a catcher and first baseman for the Cardinals, Devil Rays, Diamondbacks, Royals, Cubs, Tigers, Mets and then the Rays, who were no longer the Devil Rays. Two other Bearden players, Justin Miller and Trey York, played in the minors but did not play major-league ball.
Thomas lives in Knoxville. His father, Mike, was a professional drag racer in the National Hot Rod Association.
The move on Thomas was just one of several this week by the Cardinals. The big-league club placed Bader, right-handed pitcher Mike Mayers and outfielder Tyler O’Neill on the 10-day injured list, with Bader’s placement retroactive to Sunday. The team also sent third baseman Drew Robinson to Memphis, promoting Thomas, shortstop Yairo Munoz and right-handed pitchers Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley from Memphis to the big-league club. The Cardinals also sent right-handed pitcher Luke Gregerson to Springfield for a rehab assignment.