TORONTO — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons won’t come out and say it, but Frank Thomas will. Being left out of the starting lineup for Saturday’s game isn’t a one-time deal for Thomas. He’s been told that he could be on the bench for a while.
“Basically, I’ve been told that I’m not going to be in that lineup,” Thomas told MLB.com on Saturday. “Gibby told me that this morning. I see it as something else is going on. We’ll see how that plays out.
“You know what’s going on and I know what’s going on. We’ll see how it plays out. I’m just a little frustrated right now. There are some things going on around here this year that I haven’t been happy about.”
Thomas was likely referring to his contract situation. If he reaches 304 more plate appearances this season, he has a $10 million option for 2009 that will vest. Thomas’ struggles may very be just another slow start, but you can bet Toronto’s higher ups are a little wary with that option hanging over their heads.
There are some within Toronto’s organization who have expressed concern that this could be a sign of Thomas being in decline production wise. Recently, he’s started crouching more in his stance, which could indicate that he’s trying to cheat some with his swing in order to catch up to pitches. Thomas downplayed any significance with the stance change.
“That’s nothing new,” he said. “Some days I’m up and some days I’m down. That’s just the way I do things.”
UPDATE — 6:13 p.m. ET: Just wrapping up here at the ball yard and thought I’d add a postgame update on the Thomas situation. I can neither confirm nor deny that Thomas was sitting on Toronto’s bench on Saturday, but no one saw him there. One place he definitely wasn’t was on the field with the team, shaking hands after the game. That’s not a good move. Looking at the situation, which has potential to become a huge distraction for a team that wants to contend, Thomas may be released in the near future. Now, that’s complete speculation on my part, but it would rid the Jays of having to worry about that $10 million option for 2009, which is something the team would probably want to avoid having to pick up. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few days. I will say this: Thomas is a Hall of Famer, hands down. He’s also been one of my favorite players I’ve ever covered as a reporter. I am slightly bias, through, since I grew up in Chicago when he was pretty much the Michael Jordan of baseball. Still, his production is declining. Yes, there’s a track record there for the slow starts, but it’s looked more and more this year like he’s been struggling to catch up to pitches. If this year winds up being his last one in the bigs, he’s had a tremendous career.
DETROIT (6-11) at TORONTO (8-9)
at 1:07 p.m. ET at the Rogers Centre
Clete Thomas, CF
Jacques Jones, LF
Gary Sheffield, DH
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 3B
Carlos Guillen, 1B
Edgar Renteria, SS
Ivan Rodriguez, C
Ryan Raburn, 2B
PITCHING: RHP Jeremy Bonderman
David Eckstein, SS
Aaron Hills, 2B
Alex Rios, RF
Vernon Wells, CF
Matt Stairs, DH
Rod Barajas, C
Lyle Overbay, 1B
Marco Scutaro, 3B
*Joe Inglett, LF
PITCHING: RHP Dustin McGowan
*Shannon Stewart was a late scratch