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 Blue Jays Thomas benched for time being - 04/19/2008

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PostSubject: Blue Jays Thomas benched for time being - 04/19/2008   Sat Apr 19, 2008 11:59 pm

04/19/2008 11:35 AM ET
Thomas benched for time being
Designated hitter, mired in early slump, frustrated with decision
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com

TORONTO -- Frank Thomas received an unexpected call into Blue Jays manager John Gibbons' office on Saturday morning. The message was that the omission of the designated hitter's name from Toronto's starting lineup isn't simply a one-day switch.

At least for now, Thomas has been informed that he's going to reside on the Jays' bench -- a result of another early season slump for the veteran. Sitting in front of his locker prior to Toronto's game against Detroit, Thomas expressed frustration over the change and questioned whether there was more to the move than mere statistics.

"Basically, I've been told that I'm not going to be in that lineup," Thomas said. "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 could've been alluding to his contract situation, which has been an ongoing topic since the early stages of Spring Training. Under the terms of the two-year deal Thomas inked with Toronto prior to last season, the 39-year-old DH has a vesting option worth $10 million for the 2009 season.

Thomas can guarantee that salary for next year simply by notching 304 more plate appearances this year. His contract stipulated that the option would vest for Thomas, who had 624 plate appearances last season, if he accumulated 1,000 plate appearances between the 2007-08 seasons.

A $10 million salary is a hefty price tag for a slugger who will turn 41 years old next season, especially if Thomas' production continues to falter. Thomas is quick to point out that slow starts are nothing new for him, though. His struggles this month are similar to woes he experienced early on in each of the past two seasons.

"A slow start is part of the game," Thomas said. "I'm not the only ... hitter in the game with a slow start. I repeatedly hit the ball on the nose the last seven or eight games. I'm just not having any luck right now, but I've hit the ball hard.

"That's all you can do in this game, is hit the ball hard. That's basically all I can control. Sooner or later they find holes and they fall. But to beat myself up over it? No, I'm not going to do that. I did my job."

Through 16 games this season, Thomas is hitting .167 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 72 plate appearances. He's managed a .306 on-base percentage and a .333 slugging percentage along the way, and he's hit just .114 in his past nine games. Throughout his career, April is the lone month that Thomas has a sub-.300 average.

Thomas, who is under contract for $8 million this year, hit just .217 with eight homers and 22 RBIs through his first 55 games last season -- his first with Toronto. Over his final 100 contests, though, Thomas regained his rhythm and posted a .308 average with 18 homers and 73 RBIs.

It was very similar to Thomas' showing in 2006, when he got off to a rough start with the Oakland A's. Through his first 37 games of that season, Thomas hit .197 with nine homers and 22 RBIs. Like this past year, though, he turned it up a notch over the final 100 games, hitting .298 with 30 home runs and 92 RBIs.

The Blue Jays can only hope that a similar rebound is in store for Thomas.

"You've got to bank on that and you hope that's the case," Gibbons said.

There are concerns within the organization that Thomas' struggles aren't simply part of another slow start, though. That's one reason why Matt Stairs, who started at DH on Saturday, could potentially occupy Thomas' spot in the lineup more often, though Gibbons wouldn't say as much.

Recently, Thomas has noticeably altered his stance, crouching more at the plate to move into his hitting position earlier in his swing. That can be a sign of Thomas trying to find a way to start his swing faster to better catch up with pitches, though he downplayed any significance in the slight change.

"That's nothing new," Thomas said about the change to his stance. "Some days I'm up and some days I'm down. That's just the way I do things."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Blue Jays Thomas benched for time being - 04/19/2008   Sun Apr 20, 2008 12:06 pm

BLUE JAYS RELEASE DESIGNATED HITTER FRANK THOMAS

The Frank Thomas era in Toronto has come to an end.

TSN has learned that the 39-year old designed hitter has been released by the Blue Jays, one day after being benched as the teams' starting designated hitter.

Thomas was batting .167 in 16 games, with three homers and 11 RBI this season.

When told of his benching yesterday, the Big Hurt said it was an attempt by the club to limit his at bats in order to make sure he didn't get the 304 plate appearances required to guarantee his $10-million option for next season.

The vesting option was part of the $18.12-million, two-year deal he signed with the Blue Jays in November 2006.

On Saturday, general manager J.P. Ricciardi denied that Thomas' contract factored into the decision to bench the 19-year veteran.

"I think the decision is the manager's based on what he thinks is best for the team," said Ricciardi. "As a team we're struggling offensively and I just think Gibby is trying to spark our offence a little bit.

"A lot of guys are struggling, I don't think (Thomas) is alone. I think at this point you try and do what you can do to help the club and Gibby's trying to put our best possible lineup on the field."

With Thomas being released, the Jays could recall prospect Adam Lind, who is currently hitting .360 with 3 home runs in 14 games at Triple-A.

Thomas has 516 homers and a lifetime batting average of .302 during a career that will likely land him in the Hall of Fame.


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PostSubject: Re: Blue Jays Thomas benched for time being - 04/19/2008   Sun Apr 20, 2008 12:06 pm

He's benching didn't last long...whistle


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PostSubject: Re: Blue Jays Thomas benched for time being - 04/19/2008   Sun Apr 20, 2008 2:59 pm

:haha: nope
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PostSubject: Re: Blue Jays Thomas benched for time being - 04/19/2008   Sun Apr 20, 2008 8:34 pm

04/20/2008 4:57 PM ET
Jays, Thomas mutually part ways
Designated hitter took exception to decrease in playing time
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com

TORONTO -- It was a situation that had potential to become an enormous distraction for the Blue Jays. Instead, the club found a way to come to an agreement with veteran Frank Thomas on a mutual parting of ways.

On Sunday morning, Thomas sat down with Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi to discuss the previous day's developments. Thomas had been informed that he would no longer be Toronto's primary designated hitter and the news understandably did not sit well with the aging slugger.

Thomas publicly vented frustration over the matter on Saturday, when he first was informed of the lineup change by Jays manager John Gibbons. One day later, Thomas' jersey still hung inside his locker in Toronto's clubhouse, but he was nowhere to be found after being granted his unconditional release.

"Out of respect for his career," Gibbons said, "it's not fair to him, sitting around and becoming a part-time player -- it's really not. I know he wasn't going to be happy with that and we can definitely understand that.

"He doesn't deserve hanging here and sitting around not being able to play. It's a privilege to be able to say you managed a Hall of Famer. I'll miss a lot of things about him."

The bottom line was that Thomas wasn't producing the way the Blue Jays had hoped he would out of the DH position. Toronto wants to do everything in its power to compete for a postseason berth in the American League this year, affording the club little time to allow Thomas to work through another early-season slump.

Through 16 games, Thomas was batting .167 with three home runs and 11 RBIs for the Blue Jays. Thomas had a similar start to last season, but he finished hitting .277 with a team-high 26 homers and 95 RBIs. With their offense struggling in the early going this year, patience wasn't on the Blue Jays' side this time around.

"This guy did lead our team in home runs and RBIs last year," Ricciardi said. "But it's just a situation where I don't know if we have the luxury of waiting two to three months for someone to kick in, because we can't let this league or this division get away from us."

That being the case, Gibbons met with Thomas on Saturday morning to inform the 39-year-old DH that he was being moved to the bench. Toronto was willing to offer Thomas two or three starts per week, but that provided no solace for Thomas, who has enjoyed a storied 19-year career.

"When I talked to Frank," Ricciardi said, "the one thing I mentioned to him was that, 'Your role will probably be diminished and, just knowing you, I don't think you're going to be happy in that role.' He said he wouldn't be happy in that role, so he thought the best bet was just to move on."

On Saturday, Thomas questioned whether the decision to reduce his playing time was simply a result of his statistics. Thomas, who turns 40 years old in May, said he believed there was more to the change that just his slow start, alluding to his contract situation.

Under the terms of the two-year deal Thomas inked with Toronto prior to last season, he could've been guaranteed a $10 million salary for 2009 by reaching 1,000 plate appearances between the 2007-08 campaigns. Thomas needed just 304 more trips to the plate this season for that option to vest.

"Basically, I've been told that I'm not going to be in that lineup," Thomas said 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."

With Thomas now out of the picture, the Jays don't have to worry about potentially owing him $10 million next year or an extra $1 million in performance bonuses this season. Toronto does have to provide Thomas with his full $8 million salary for this season, though.

Ricciardi indicated that the contract situation wasn't broached during his meeting with Thomas.

"That never came up," Ricciardi said. "Like I told Frank, our decision is based on performance and his decision is based on not being able to be in the lineup. It was a mutual agreement. Frank was very professional about it."

Ricciardi also didn't worry too much about Thomas' heated reaction after being told he was going to have a more diminished role with the Jays.

"I probably didn't put much stock into it as maybe some other people," Ricciardi said. "If you know Frank, he's an emotional guy. He wears his heart on his sleeve and I would be disappointed if a player didn't have a reaction where he cared."

Still, an unhappy Thomas could've made for an uncomfortable clubhouse, possibly leading to the Blue Jays' swift action. Toronto center fielder Vernon Wells, sitting in front of his locker prior to Saturday's game, couldn't say whether or not the matter would've become a distraction for the team.

"It might have," Wells said. "I don't know how frustrated he would've been with the situation. But it didn't get to that point. Frank, as well as our management, wanted to get this situation resolved as quick as possible and, obviously, it didn't take too long."

Without Thomas' bat in the fold, the Jays will rely more on Matt Stairs and catcher Rod Barajas to occupy the DH slot. Following Sunday's game against the Tigers, Toronto recalled catcher Robinzon Diaz from Triple-A Syracuse to take Thomas' spot on the roster. Diaz can help out behind the plate on days that Barajas is the DH.

A long-term solution would be outfielder Adam Lind, who is currently batting .360 with three homers and 13 RBIs in 16 games with Triple-A Syracuse this season. The only problem is that Lind, who spent time with the Jays in parts of the past two seasons, is currently nursing a stiff neck and might not be available for a few days.

Until the 24-year-old Lind is ready, Toronto will probably find a temporary solution to account for the loss of Thomas, who has hit .302 with 516 career home runs. It's not every day that a team needs to replace a two-time AL Most Valuable Player who appears destined for baseball's highest honor.

"He's had a Hall of Fame career," Wells said. "Some things happened this year that resulted in where we are today. It's an unfortunate situation for both sides and we need to move on. He's going to move on and we need to move on and concentrate on winning some ballgames.

"You'll remember the times that you got to play with a Hall of Famer, but after that it's time to concentrate on the bigger picture."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Blue Jays Thomas benched for time being - 04/19/2008   Thu Apr 24, 2008 12:04 am

Thomas has offers from As, another team

By Tim Brown, Yahoo! Sports 1 hour, 55 minutes ago

Frank Thomas was close to signing with the Oakland As on Wednesday until another team made an offer at the last minute, according to a baseball source. The second offer, from an undisclosed team, at least temporarily put the brakes on the As deal, which would reunite the aging slugger with the team he hit 39 home runs for in 2006.

Thomas, who has 516 home runs and a .302 batting average in 19 seasons, was released by the Toronto Blue Jays three days ago after he became enraged when team officials told him he no longer would play every day. Thomas believed the Blue Jays were trying to avoid him collecting another 304 plate appearances, which would have triggered a $10 million option for 2009.

Thomas, a notorious slow starter,was in a slump when he was released and is batting .167 with three home runs in 60 at-bats.

The As have had little production from their designated hitters. Jack Cust is batting .148 with one homer in 54 at-bats, and Mike Sweeney has only a .346 slugging percentage in 52 at-bats.

Should the As sign Thomas, it would likely end any lingering speculation that they would sign Barry Bonds.


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PostSubject: Re: Blue Jays Thomas benched for time being - 04/19/2008   Thu Apr 24, 2008 2:47 pm

That didn't take long...

Thomas returns to Oakland
Designated hitter signs with A's, for whom he played in '06
The Associated Press

OAKLAND -- The Big Hurt is coming back to the Bay Area.

The Oakland Athletics agreed to terms on Thursday with designated hitter Frank Thomas, who was released on Sunday by the Toronto Blue Jays to become a free agent after becoming disgruntled about his playing time.

Oakland will be on the hook only for about $337,000 -- a prorated share of the $390,000 minimum -- so this move was a bargain for general manager Billy Beane and a club looking to boost its power numbers.

To clear roster room, the A's placed outfielder Travis Buck on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 19 with shin splints and transferred six-time Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez to the 60-day disabled list.

The 39-year-old Thomas, who will get the vast majority of his $8 million salary this year from the Blue Jays, is hitless in his past 13 at-bats and had gone 4-for-35 since homering in three straight games April 5-8. Known as a slow starter, he batted .167 with three homers and 11 RBIs for Toronto this year.

He left Oakland after the A's 2006 AL championship series season, signing an $18.12 million, two-year contract with Toronto.

Thomas remade himself with the small-market A's, and his paycheck wasn't as small as it looked coming into the year. He signed an incentive-laden one-year deal for $500,000, but earned all $2.6 million of his possible bonuses based on plate appearances and keeping his troublesome left foot healthy.

In 2006, he batted .270 with a team-leading 39 home runs and 114 RBIs in 137 games after missing all but 108 games the previous two seasons with the Chicago White Sox because of injury.


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