The Thomas Situation
TAMPA — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons doesn’t worry about his players’ contracts or what is or is not included in them. As far as Gibbons is concerned, he’s responsible for the daily lineup card and general manager J.P. Ricciardi can handle the paperwork.
"That’s his department. I don’t get involved in that contract stuff. I don’t want to know about any of that stuff," Gibbons said.
When it comes to veteran slugger Frank Thomas’ situation, though, Gibbons may have to start taking contract issues into consideration this year. When asked if he wanted to know how many plate appearances Thomas needed to kick in a guaranteed $10 million salary for 2009, Gibbons laughed and replied, "No."
Well, the Big Hurt needs just 376 plate appearances this year to secure that double-digit salary for ’09. His contract included a vesting option for the $10 mil that kicks in if Thomas reaches 1,000 PAs between 2007-08. He had 624 PAs last year — his first with the Jays.
If Thomas has another slow start to the season, the Blue Jays may want to consider how close they want him to come to guaranteeing a third year in Toronto. Now, we’re kind of getting ahead of ourselves here by even bringing the topic up, but it is something to at least keep in the back of our minds.
Gibbons isn’t too worried about it right now.
"First of all, we expect him to hit," Gibbons said on Saturday. "That’s the thing. I can’t comment on it other than that. He’s here to be our DH."
Gibbons wasn’t shy about saying that Thomas hasn’t had a good spring, though.
"No, he hasn’t," Gibbons said. "His timing is off and he’s a little off-balance at the plate, but from everything I’ve understood, from talking to other people, too, he never really has. Spring Training has never been his thing."
This spring, he’s managed a .088 average, .118 slugging and .088 on-base for the Jays. Last season, Thomas hit .217 in the season’s first 55 games, but he turned it on over the final 100, batting .308 over that span and winding up with a .277 mark with 26 homers and 95 RBIs when it was all said and done.
"We expect him to be in there every day producing. That’s all I can bank on," Gibbons said.
This isn’t really much of a story at this point, considering it’s still Spring Training and we have yet to see what kind of start Thomas has in the season. Now, if Thomas’ offense is struggling come May, that’s when this plate appearances/$10 million 2009 salary thing will be more of an issue.
Hey, an injury could even stop Thomas from reaching that 376 figure — who knows? Maybe we should just take it from Hurt himself. He’s had slow starts throughout his career, so this spring slump is really nothing new. A slow April wouldn’t be anything unfamiliar, either.
Even with all the slow starts, he’s still a .300 career hitter.
"Things will take off," Thomas said recently. "Me? I’m not going to worry about anything, because I’m more of a timing guy. Once my timing is set, I’m set for the rest of the year. That’s just the way I am. It just takes time to get going, but once it gets going it stays. It’s been like that my whole career."
ON ANOTHER NOTE: Game here in Tampa today was canceled due to rain. Awh, maaaaan, now I HAVE to leave the ballpark and sit around and watch college basketball. Randy Wells had a solid, though brief, outing. Gibbons said the righty will probably pitch again on Monday. The relievers that didn’t get into today’s game — John Parrish, Mike Gosling, Shawn Camp — will have to get their work in a Minors game tomorrow. McGowan’s line today: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 8 K, 1 BB vs. Triple-A Lehigh Valley (Phillies).