07/08/07 8:13 PM ET
Notes: Thigpen is odd-man out
First baseman heads to Triple-A to make room for Overbay
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
With Opening Day first baseman Lyle Overbay just days away from returning to the Major Leagues, Toronto decided to option Thigpen back to Triple-A Syracuse following Sunday's game against the Indians.
"He proved to himself and to us that he can play up here," said Jays manager John Gibbons. "He did some awful good things for us. He's the odd man out -- you have to expect that. He got here sooner than we expected, but he was successful and now he goes down confident."
Gibbons hinted in recent weeks that once Overbay was healthy enough to return it was likely that Thigpen would be sent down. That's not meant to be a slight on the 24-year-old's performance -- if anything, it's a compliment to what the Jays think of his long-term future. They'd rather see Thigpen play every day in the Minor Leagues instead of having his progress stunted by sitting on the bench in the big leagues.
"The organization as a whole has expressed a lot of confidence in me," Thigpen said. "They have plans for me in the future. So obviously they want me playing every day and I want the same. I want to be in the big leagues, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I want to be here playing."
Thigpen came up through the Toronto's Minor League system as a catcher, but over the last year, the Jays began working on his versatility at other positions. He played three games at second base for Triple-A Syracuse earlier this season and he spent the majority of his time in Toronto at first. He says his focus is on improving his play behind the plate, but he'll continue to work hard at other positions if it means a chance at more playing time with the Jays.
"I want to catch, first and foremost," Thigpen said. "I like catching and I think I can do it. But at the same time, I want to have the ability to play other positions if I need to. It's a good thing to have as a player -- to be able to help out a team in different situations."
Thigpen enjoyed an impressive 2007 campaign with the Jays. He hit .270 (10-for-37) with four RBIs since a June 3rd call-up. Thigpen singled in his first Major League at-bat on June 6, but he says the highlight of his season came the night before when the Jays came from five runs down in the ninth inning to defeat the Devil Rays.
"The first game I was here, we had an awesome comeback win," Thigpen recalled. "I didn't play -- I was hanging out watching and came back and beat the Devil Rays in the last inning, and that's been the highlight so far. That was an awesome moment."
Draft deals: On Saturday, Toronto agreed to terms with four additional players that were selected in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
One of the signees was relief pitcher Tryston Magnuson. The 22-year-old native of Vancouver posted a 3-2 record with nine saves and a 1.09 ERA in 35 relief appearances for the University of Louisville. Magnuson became the highest Louisville player drafted when he was taken in the compensation round (56th overall).
Jays scouting director Jon Lalonde says Magnuson hadn't been on the Jays' radar until this year, but his above-average fastball and effective slider made him too hard to pass up.
"He's kind of a guy that burst onto the scene this year," said Lalonde. "He's not someone we had necessarily pegged very high heading into this year ... We had him cross-checked three times and everyone who saw him came away excited."
Shortstop Justin Jackson (45th overall) also agreed to terms with the Jays. The 18-year-old hit .520 with 12 home runs and 39 RBIs for TC Roberson High School in Asheville, N.C. Jackson was a second-team 2007 High School All-America selection in his senior year.
While a lot of high school shortstops are forced to switch positions once they begin their professional career, the Jays anticipate Jackson staying there long-term.
"I think he brings legitimate shortstop defensive skills," Lalonde said. "He's not going to be a John McDonald -- making acrobatic plays everywhere -- but he plays the position well and he makes it look somewhat easy.
"He's got tremendous makeup and has a very good body with a chance to fill out and get stronger. We think eventually he'll be a solid offensive player. He brings a really well-rounded game for someone out of high school."
Toronto also signed right-handers Alan Farina (115th overall) and Robert Leffler (265th overall). The Jays have now signed 26 of their 35 Draft picks from 2007. The only remaining player expected to come to terms in the near future is right-hander Randy Boone, who was taken in the seventh round. Toronto plans on taking a wait-and-see approach to its other eight remaining players. The deadline for signing Draft picks is Aug. 15.
Cuban flavor: Toronto signed free-agent right-hander Kenny Rodriguez to a Minor League contract on Sunday. Rodriguez posted a 6-4 record with a 4.18 ERA in Cuba's highest-level league, Serie Nacional. He finished with 72 strikeouts over 75 innings and held opponents to a .227 average.
The 22-year-old defected from his homeland in August 2006 while competing for the Cuban National B team in Ecuador.
Finding a groove: Overbay is one step closer to proving to the Jays that he is ready to return to the Major Leagues. Toronto's Opening Day first baseman played in his second rehab game for Double-A New Hampshire on Saturday afternoon and went 2-for-4 with five RBIs.
His biggest hit of the game came in the fifth inning when he hit a grand slam off Kyle Jackson to give the Fisher Cats a 6-3 lead.
Overbay is now 2-for-9 on his rehab assignment and he is expected to play in two more games for New Hampshire before possibly returning to the Jays on Thursday against the Red Sox.
Down on the farm:Outfielder Travis Snider became the fourth player in the history of Class A Lansing to hit for the cycle. The 2006 first-round Draft pick went 5-for-5 with three RBIs. Snider is hitting .300 (79-for-263) with six home runs and 53 RBIs in 70 games this season.
Did you know? The Jays will head into the All-Star break with a losing record for the first time since 2004. Last season, Toronto headed into the break with a 49-39 record.
Coming up: Toronto ace Roy Halladay (10-3, 4.46) is scheduled to take the mound when the Blue Jays kick off the second half of the season against the Red Sox at 7:05 p.m. ET on
Gregor Chisholm is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.