Thomas ready to test slider in return to majors

A stint in the minor leagues to work on developing his slider became a short one for Ian Thomas. The rookie left-hander was recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett less than a week after he was optioned.

Thomas had been sent down when Gavin Floyd was activated from the disabled list last Sunday, and he returned when the Braves put Jordan Walden on the disabled list Saturday.

In the meantime, Thomas made one start in Gwinnett, pitching three perfect innings with five strikeouts. He did so featuring a slider he hadn’t thrown since college at Virginia Commonwealth.

He said he threw about 12 sliders in his 50 pitches.

“I threw it in high school, messed my elbow up a little bit,” Thomas said. “I think I partially tore my (ulnar collateral ligament) but nothing bad enough to where it needed to get repaired.”

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Thomas said he started throwing the slider again in college but eventually shelved it. When Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell asked him how he felt about adding a harder secondary pitch to use against lefties, a slider or a cutter, he was open to trying it again.

“He brought up a grip and I felt comfortable throwing it, throwing it the right way,” Thomas said. “I took that into the game and it felt good, so we’re going to continue to work with it. I threw a side out there a couple minutes ago and it felt fine. I’m just going to take that into a game and see how that plays out.”

The Gwinnett Braves were playing on the road against Lehigh Valley, Pa., on Friday night and Thomas was sitting on the team bus ready to go back to the hotel when Gwinnett manager Brian Snitker called and told him to go back into the clubhouse and pack his bags for Atlanta. He flew out of Allentown, Pa., at 7 a.m. Saturday.

“I jumped right off that bus and got my stuff packed, champing at the bit to get on that plane and get back here,” said Thomas, who spent three years in the independent leagues before signing with the Braves in 2012. “Glad to be back, real excited, try to get a win tonight.”

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