SAN DIEGO -- Opening Day was special for Padres reliever Joe Thatcher, even though he didn't throw a single pitch in a 5-3 loss to the Dodgers at Petco Park.
For Thatcher, just being in the ballpark, the dugout and in uniform was good enough after missing each of the last two Opening Days while stuck rehabilitating a sore left shoulder at the Padres' Spring Training facility in Peoria, Ariz.
"I was in my apartment by myself watching the games," Thatcher said of the 2010 and '11 openers. "That's not something you want to go through. But the last two years, after everyone left and being there left behind ... it was pretty depressing. Everyone is gone."
Thatcher, on the heels of a strong spring, wasn't left behind when the Padres broke camp Sunday and headed west to San Diego. He's the only left-hander in the bullpen and certainly figures to log important innings this season.
It's a far cry from the last two seasons in which Thatcher only made a combined two appearances in Cactus League games because of a bum shoulder that eventually needed surgery a year ago.
This spring, Thatcher had a 0.96 ERA in 11 games. More importantly, he had no pain in his shoulder -- even after pitching on consecutive days on March 23-24, the final test that proved to him that he was ready for Opening Day.
"There was a little nervousness [at the start of Spring Training] because the last two years I couldn't get going," Thatcher said. "But my arm felt great all spring, especially when I pitch in back-to-back games."