Thames has to wait to make big-league debut

BY foxsports • May 17, 2011

Eric Thames was ready to start his major league career Tuesday in Detroit.

Thanks to another miserable spring night in Michigan, the Toronto Blue Jays prospect is going to have to wait.

Thames, who was called up after Monday's 4-2 victory over the Tigers, was written into the starting lineup against the Tigers as Toronto's designated hitter. The game, though, was postponed after a two-hour rain delay, and will be played on June 27.

The 24-year-old, who spent much of the delay on the field signing autographs, won't have to wait nearly that long to start his career, though.

''It is important that, when you bring a young guy up, you get him some work,'' Toronto manager John Farrell said. ''You don't want to have him up here just to sit around.''

Farrell said, as a left-handed bat, Thames will see time at designated hitter and leftfield in Toronto's righty-heavy lineup.

''Eric earned this spot by his performance in Triple-A, but we can also use a lefty in our lineup,'' Farrell said.

Thames was hitting .342 in Las Vegas after a strong showing in spring training.

''I pride myself on my hitting, and I work very hard on it,'' he said. ''I listened to the veterans in spring training, I applied what they told me, and so far, it has been working in my favor.''

Thames has big shoes to fill, having been called up when Adam Lind went on the disabled list with a back injury. Lind, who has been out since May 8, is hitting .313 in 32 games, and his 27 RBIs are tied for the team lead with Jose Bautista. He had hoped to return to the Toronto lineup in Detroit, but sustained a setback Monday and was placed on the disabled list.

''He was taking batting practice, and it tightened up on him again,'' Farrell said. ''We're going to send him down to Florida to our extended spring camp and let him work this out. The good news is that we're already half way into the 15-day period.''

Toronto's offense has kept going without Lind, averaging seven runs in a six-game winning streak that started after they lost three in a row to the Tigers.

That was part of a seven-game winning streak for Detroit, but it wasn't able to mask a serious problem in their bullpen. Tuesday, while the rest of the team waited out the rain, setup man Joaquin Benoit lost his job.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the media repeatedly before the game that he wasn't going to answer any questions about Benoit's status, but changed his mind a few minutes later.

While recording his pregame radio show with Tigers play-by-play man Dan Dickerson, Leyland confirmed that he was going to take Benoit out of the eighth-inning role. He did not announce a replacement.

Benoit started the season well, but has struggled terribly over the past few weeks. In his last six outings, dating back to April 27, he has allowed 14 runs - 12 earned - in five innings. He's lost three of the games.

''Obviously, he's struggling,'' Leyland said after Benoit lost Monday's game to the Blue Jays. ''It's not velocity - his velocity is still good. He's just not able to locate the ball when he throws it.''

For the season, Benoit is 1-3 with a 7.98 ERA - a far cry from last season's spectacular performance with the Devil Rays. In 63 games, he put up a 1.34 ERA, allowing just 30 hits in 60 1/3 innings.

That earned him a three-year, $16.5 million deal from the Tigers, and he hasn't figured out why he isn't living up to that money.

''If I knew that, I would give you an answer,'' he said. ''I'm trying to figure that out. Things just aren't working right now.''

Benoit insists that he isn't injured, and Tigers pitching coach Rick Knapp doesn't think the problem can be fixed with a simple tweak to his delivery.

''Is it mechanics? I don't think it's mechanics,'' Knapp said. ''I think it's just confidence. To throw the ball down, it isn't something you can think about, you have to leverage it that way. You have to know that you're going to throw the ball down and not have to think about it.''

NOTES: Farrell will be at the All-Star game in Phoenix as a coach for Texas manager Ron Washington. He also went as a coach in 2008 while working for Boston's Terry Francona, but never made an All-Star game as a pitcher. ... Toronto will keep their rotation intact, with Tuesday's scheduled starter, Jesse Litsch, pitching Wednesday at home against Tampa Bay. Detroit, though, will skip Rick Porcello's start and let Phil Coke pitch Wednesday in Boston, as originally planned.

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