July 4, 1995 in Sports

Thurman’s Ascension Anything But Fast Long-Suffering Outfielder Does His Best To Show M’S He Deserves A Full-Time Job

Associated Press
 

When the Kansas City Royals picked fleet Gary Thurman in the first round of baseball’s 1983 June draft, he thought it was only a matter of time before his legs could make him a star.

On the bases, he could fly. He knew he wasn’t going to hit a lot of home runs, but he was confident he could hit enough line drives and get enough infield hits with his exceptional speed to make up for his lack of power.

Now, time is running out on his career.

Thurman blames Kansas City for not giving him enough of an opportunity to succeed. The outfielder points out he was up and down between the majors and minors in four of the six seasons he played for the Royals.

“When you don’t get to use your skills, you lose your skills,” the 30-year-old said.

Thurman went to spring training with the Royals in 1993 and they put him on waivers. Detroit claimed him and kept him around that season, but he only had 89 at-bats.

He spent last season as a Chicago White Sox farmhand at Class AAA Nashville.

With its left field job up for grabs, Seattle signed Thurman as a free agent Nov. 23. He began the season at Class AAA Tacoma and was called up by the Mariners two weeks ago.

A lithe 5-foot-10, 180-pounder, Thurman still has his speed. He just wants an opportunity.

“I’m frustrated in the sense that I’ve seen guys who have been just handed jobs,” he said. “I was a top prospect once, but I never got that chance.”

Thurman has had an excellent 1995. In Tacoma, he hit .308 (73 for 237) with four home runs and 25 stolen bases in 63 games.

Mariners manager Lou Piniella has liked what he’s seen of Thurman, too. A career .241 hitter seven up-and-down seasons with the Royals (six years) and Tigers (one), Thurman is hitting .438 (7 for 16) with three RBIs and five stolen bases in eight games with the Mariners.

With one week to go before the All-Star break, the Mariners’ left field job has still not been filled. Rookies Darren Bragg and Marc Newfield have played the bulk of the time there, but have been major disappointments.

Thurman had a chance to sign as a free agent with a number of teams after hitting .264 in 130 games at Nashville last season. He picked the Mariners because he felt they offered him the best chance to become a regular player.

He covets Seattle’s left field job. He knows he still has to convince Piniella he’s an everyday player, but he thinks he’s left a good impression with his quick start.

“It’s really important to me to get off to a fast start here,” he said. “I want to make an impact right away to show Lou that I can be a guy who can come in and do a job. I know the type of guy Lou is. He likes to run a lot.”

Thurman’s speed is impressive. In his career, he’s stolen 65 of 81 bases. “I know I’ve got a lot of tools left,” Thurman said. “I’ve got good speed and I play good defense. Plus, I’m a veteran of the game now. My age doesn’t bother me at all.”

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