Notes: Thigpen does his homework
Catcher gets his runner at second; Burnett to throw Friday
TORONTO -- Curtis Thigpen understands that a few starts a week isn't enough time to get acclimated with all of Toronto's pitchers. So, the young catcher is making the most of his down time.
On Monday, Thigpen grabbed his notebook and made his way around the Blue Jays' clubhouse, taking a few minutes to talk with the few pitchers he hasn't caught on the staff, and taking notes during the conversations. The 24-year-old catcher, who was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday, wanted to familiarize himself with the pitchers' tendencies in order to be prepared to work with them on the field.
"I met with all the guys who I haven't really caught before one-on-one," Thigpen said. "I was like, 'Listen, I'm going to write down everything you like to do, what you don't like to do, what your strengths are, your weaknesses, so it can better help me to understand you and your strengths on the mound.' I have it all in a little book that I keep."
When he's not sitting and talking with the pitchers, Thigpen said he's trying to work as their catcher during bullpen sessions. Thigpen said that catching Toronto starter Shaun Marcum in the bullpen a few days ago helped on Monday night, when the catcher made his first start behind the plate for the right-hander's latest outing.
On Saturday, Toronto released catcher Jason Phillips and brought Thigpen up from the Minors. It was a move that showed the Jays' interest in seeing if Thigpen can emerge as their primary catcher down the road. For now, he'll garner a few starts each week to spell veteran Gregg Zaun on occasion.
Working in Thigpen's favor is the fact that he's caught a handful of Toronto's pitchers while working his way up through the farm system since being taken in the second round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Last year, Thigpen caught Jays starter A.J. Burnett during a rehab assignment at Double-A, and the catcher has worked with relievers Brian Tallet, Casey Janssen, Brian Wolfe, Scott Downs and Jeremy Accardo either in the Minors or at Spring Training.
"If it doesn't just help me, it gives those pitchers a little sense of comfort," Thigpen said. "Still, not catching every day, I'm not really going to always get a chance to get comfortable with them out on the field."
That's why Thigpen is taking the necessary steps off the field.
One down: Don't look now, but Thigpen has thrown out every runner who has tried to steal against him.
On Monday against the Twins, the catcher made a perfect throw to second base, where Jays shortstop Royce Clayton applied the tag on would-be base thief Nick Punto. Marcum's quick stride to the plate certainly helped, but Thigpen said it felt great to throw out the first runner attempting a swipe with him behind the plate.
At Triple-A this season, Thigpen threw out just eight runners in 57 attempts, which equaled 14 percent caught-stealing average. That percentage isn't great, but it's a slight upgrade over the Major League-lowest 12 percent caught-stealing rate Toronto owns as a team this year.
"I guess you could say I work on my throwing a little more than other stuff," Thigpen said. "This year, I haven't been satisfied, but I probably won't ever be satisfied in anything I'm doing 100 percent. I'm definitely hungry at getting better at that aspect."
Burnett watch: Toronto manager John Gibbons said on Tuesday that Burnett, who has been sidelined with a right shoulder injury since July 1, is scheduled to throw in a simulated game on Friday in Chicago.
Gibbons believed that Burnett, who is 5-6 with a 4.31 ERA in 15 starts this year, may have to throw an additional simulated game next week before heading out for one or two Minor League rehab assignments. The right-hander isn't expected back in the rotation until early August.
Second-half surge: Blue Jays right fielder Alex Rios has hit .408 (20-for-49) in the first 12 games he's played after the All-Star break. Rios' six doubles and 20 hits rank first and third, respectively, in the American League since the break. On Monday night, Rios belted his 20th home run, which is the seventh-highest total in the league.
Twin killing: Blue Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas entered Tuesday's contest with 52 career home runs against the Twins, tying him with Rocky Colavito for the most homers versus Minnesota. On Monday, Thomas belted two homers to move past Reggie Jackson and Mickey Mantle, who are tied for second on that list with 51 home runs apiece against the Twins.
Did you know? Toronto's .983 fielding percentage as a club ranks eighth in the AL. The Blue Jays have committed 64 errors in 99 games.
Quotable: "I caught Marcum a few days before. That was good to kind of get settled in a little bit at least -- to get comfortable again. It wasn't like I was just being thrown into the fire." --Thigpen
Coming up: Toronto right-hander Jesse Litsch (2-4, 4.54 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound in the finale of a three-game set against Minnesota at 12:37 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Rogers Centre. The Twins will counter with righty Carlos Silva (8-10, 4.60 ERA).
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.