TEMPE, Ariz. -- Rich Thompson is out of Minor League options -- baseball lingo for "It's now or never."
Sydney, Australia's gift to the Angels' pitching staff, Thompson has that easy-going, easy-smiling manner associated with Aussies and their mates. He'll go about his business this spring bidding to hook a spot in the Angels' crowded bullpen. If that doesn't materialize, he'll try to hook on elsewhere, along the lines of former teammate Darren O'Day, who is now starring in the Rangers' bullpen.
"I'm out of options, so it's make or break," Thompson, 26, said. "You can't control it. If you do your job, things will play out. It certainly worked out for Darren. He's become one of the best."
Thompson's ninth professional season in 2010 was a breakthrough. He incorporated a cut fastball into a repertoire featuring a mid-90s heater and big curve, and he also figured some things out mentally that he feels were highly beneficial.
"I think I had to work it out for myself," he said. "At the beginning of last year, I took a different attitude. I was doing it for me instead of trying to impress everybody else. It's my career, and I need to take control of it instead of worrying about what anybody else was thinking. It's probably a little selfish, but it definitely worked -- especially in Triple-A [Salt Lake].
"The cutter kind of gave me a feeling that if I got behind in the count, I didn't have to blow a guy away. Anybody in the big leagues can hit a 95-mph fastball -- especially if it's straight. The cutter gave me something to get guys out earlier in the count. With four pitches now, it gives me a 25 percent chance they're going to guess right."
After dominating Pacific Coast League hitters, Thompson brought his confidence and cutter to the American League and continued to excel down the stretch. In 13 appearances covering 19 2/3 innings, he allowed only 16 baserunners while striking out 15. His 1.37 ERA was the best on the staff as he held opponents to a .171 batting average and .216 on-base mark.
"Rich really came on for us," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's got some big league stuff. There's a lot of competition for roster spots in the bullpen, and he's in the mix."