Notes: Jays to see what Thigpen can do
Catcher recalled from Triple-A, will get plenty of playing time
TORONTO -- The move came a lot sooner than he expected, but Curtis Thigpen is back with the Blue Jays. On Friday night, the rookie catcher was recalled by Toronto less than two weeks after he was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.
The Jays opened a spot on the 25-man roster by releasing backup Jason Phillips, who hit just .208 with one homer and 12 RBIs this season. It's a move that was made with an eye to the future as the Jays try to insert some more youth into their lineup.
"We like Thigpen a lot," said general manager J.P. Ricciardi, "and this gives him a little opportunity to play up here and see what we've got. As far as even tying in the rest of this season, and seeing how it goes into next year, too, -- as far as how we want to line ourselves up behind the plate."
Thigpen played in 17 games for the Jays earlier this season, hitting .270 with four RBIs. When he was optioned to the SkyChiefs on July 6, Toronto management said the move was made because they didn't want the 24-year-old wasting away on the Jays bench. Instead, they wanted to make sure Thigpen got regular playing time. Now it appears as though he'll be seeing quite a bit of action behind the plate in the Majors.
"He's going to play a few times a week," Ricciardi said. "And [he'll] go out there and start catching some of the guys that are going to be on our staff."
Thigpen has caught for almost his entire Minor League career. When he made his Major League debut, though, he filled in for injured first baseman Lyle Overbay. The only time he got into a Major League game as a catcher was when he came in as a late-inning replacement. This time around, he'll be used exclusively behind the plate, and that's something he says he's looking forward to.
"The thing I'm most excited about is working with the pitching staff," Thigpen said. "It's an awesome feeling when you can go through a game with a pitcher, and you're in a rhythm, and give up two runs or a shutout. Last time, I didn't really get to catch that much, so I'm looking forward to that."
Entering Saturday's action, the Jays found themselves 11 games back in the American League East. With only 66 games remaining in their season, Toronto is starting to re-evaluate its goals for the season's final stretch.
"There's optimism, there's pessimism, and there's realism," Ricciardi said. "We're getting realistic. We've got two teams in front of us, one the Yankees and the other the Red Sox, and the Red Sox have pretty much staked their claim that, 'Hey, we're going to be tough to catch.'"
That could be one reason Toronto opted to go with the inexperienced Thigpen behind the plate instead of veteran backup Sal Fasano, who was also playing in Triple-A. With an aging Gregg Zaun and top prospects Robinzon Diaz and J.P. Arencibia also in the organization at the catching position, Ricciardi said it was time to give Thigpen a shot to see if that position is where he belongs long-term.
"We're starting to get to the point where we've got some catching," Ricciardi said. "Just how do we line it up to make ourselves the strongest?
"Zaun's not going to be here forever. We might have a catching tandem of Robinson Diaz and Thigpen catching for us in a year. We're just trying to keep our options open and slide our young guys in there."
While Toronto did recall Thigpen as a way to insert some young blood, fans should not expect drastic changes to the Jays' roster in the coming weeks. With Toronto set at almost every position, there isn't much playing time to go around.
Left fielder Adam Lind, who filled in for Reed Johnson earlier this season, remains one of the Jays' top young players in their organization but Ricciardi said the Jays would prefer to leave him down in Triple-A for the time being.
"I think we're going to let Lind stay down and hit," Ricciardi said. "He can't come up here and not get at-bats. Even when you look at Reed, he's still trying to play catch up, and we've got to try and get him going, and get his bat in the lineup as much as we can."
Lineup switch: Toronto manager John Gibbons unveiled a revamped lineup for Saturday afternoon's game against the Mariners. Left fielder Matt Stairs found himself batting in the leadoff spot for the first time in his career, followed by first baseman Overbay and right fielder Alex Rios. Troy Glaus remained in the cleanup spot, while Vernon Wells and Frank Thomas were dropped to fifth and sixth, respectively. Aaron Hill, Zaun and Royce Clayton rounded out the final three.
Stairs: If the Jays had managed to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth on Friday night against the Mariners, their infield would have had an interesting look heading into extra innings. Stairs pinch-hit for Clayton in the ninth, which would have left the Jays without a shortstop because John McDonald had already been taken out of the game.
Bench coach Ernie Whitt said on Saturday that if the game would've gone into extra innings, then the Jays would have shifted Glaus over to short and placed Stairs at third. Stairs has never played that position during his 15-year Major League career, but has been spotted fielding ground balls there during batting practice.
Did you know? The Jays have been involved in 34 one-run games this season, which is the most in the American League and tied for second-most in the Majors. Toronto is 18-16 in those situations this season.
Quotable: "He might have gone out there in a hockey mask." -- Ricciardi, joking about the possibility of Stairs entering the game at third base on Friday night
Coming up: Roy Halladay (10-4, 4.46 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for Toronto when the Blue Jays close out a three-game series against the Mariners at 1:07 p.m. ET on Sunday at Rogers Centre. Seattle will counter with right-hander Felix Hernandez (6-5, 3.71).
Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.