Notes: Aprils unkind to Thomas
Big Hurt off to another slow start with the bat
TORONTO -- After his final swing at batting practice, Frank Thomas stepped out of the cage and shook his head. Toronto's designated hitter made his way through the crowd of people on the field and immediately headed down the tunnel behind the Blue Jays' dugout.
Thomas slammed his bat into the rack outside the clubhouse doors, displaying the frustration he's felt for most of April. As has been the case for much of his storied career, Thomas has gotten off to an abysmal start to the season. The fact that it's happened before doesn't make it any easier for him, though.
"I'm one of those rhythm hitters," said Thomas, sitting at his locker prior to Wednesday's game against Boston. "Unfortunately, April is definitely one of those months where I'm definitely trying to find my rhythm. As a hitter, you just get so frustrated that you don't think about what you do those other months."
Entering Wednesday, the Big Hurt was hitting just .191 with one home run and four RBIs in 13 games for Toronto, which signed him to a two-year deal worth $18.12 million this past offseason. All four of those RBIs came on a grand slam against Tampa Bay on April 7. Since that blast -- the 488th career homer for Thomas -- the 6-foot-5 slugger has hit just .094.
It's a similar start to the one Thomas experienced last year, when he was with Oakland. He posted a .190 average in April 2006, but finished the year hitting .270 with 39 homers and 114 RBIs. In fact, Thomas' career average for April is .286, which is the only month he's hit below .300 in his 18 big-league seasons. Thomas also has fewer home runs in April (63) than in any other month.
"Last April, he didn't do much out there in Oakland," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "You still want him in there as much as possible, because you know he's going to break out of it."
Thomas is at least confident that his slow start doesn't stem from a mechanical issue.
"There's not a problem with my swing," Thomas said. "It's just the opportunities that I'm getting. If you get one every other at-bat and you don't capitalize on it, you can get yourself in a funk like that.
"The key for me is to get enough balls out over the plate that I can do something with. [Pitchers] have executed their plan very well on me and stuck with it. I've had a lot of bad swings on balls out of the strike zone."
Lineup tweaks: Gibbons made some adjustments to his lineup on Wednesday, when Boston sent knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to the mound.
Left fielder Matt Stairs and first baseman Lyle Overbay were the only two left-handed hitters in the order, because Wakefield has struggled more against righties in his career than lefties. That being the case, Gibbons opted to start Jason Phillips behind the plate instead of Gregg Zaun, who will play during Thursday's day game.
Gibbons also sat rookie Adam Lind, who has been starting in place of the injured Reed Johnson. Toronto's manager said he rested the 23-year-old Lind vs. the Boston right-hander because of the pitcher's unorthodox style.
"We got the young kid out of there because we don't want to [mess] up his swing," Gibbons said. "Wakefield can set you back a week."
Zaun steps up: On Wednesday, the Blue Jays announced that catcher Zaun has become the newest athlete ambassador for Right To Play, which is an international humanitarian organization. Zaun, who is the group's first Major League representative, will make a $1,000 donation for every baserunner he throws out this season.
"As a professional athlete, I'm fortunate to be in a position where I can help," Zaun said in a release. "Right To Play is using the power of sport to create happier, healthier, more peaceful communities for countless children in developing countries overseas."
Recovering: Gibbons indicated that everything went well for Johnson on Tuesday, when the outfielder underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back. After a period of rest, Johnson will begin his rehabilitation in Florida.
Did you know? The Blue Jays have four pitchers (B.J. Ryan, Jason Frasor, Shaun Marcum and Casey Janssen) with at least one save this season. The last time Toronto had four relievers record at least one save in April was in 1997, when Mike Timlin, Tim Crabtree, Dan Plesac and Paul Spoljaric each split time in the ninth inning.
Quotable: "What do they call it? A gyroball? That's all he threw me." -- Overbay, joking Tuesday about facing Boston pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka
Coming up: Toronto ace Roy Halladay (2-0, 2.35 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound on Thursday when the Blue Jays host the Red Sox in the finale of a three-game set at 12:37 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre. Boston will counter with right-hander Julian Tavarez (0-1, 9.00 ERA).
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.