05/01/12 11:23 PM ET
Thames swinging with supreme confidence
By Chris Toman / MLB.com
In games he's started, the left fielder has collected a hit in 14 out of his past 16 games entering Tuesday's contest and is batting .370 since April 8. Manager John Farrell believes Thames understands the game a lot more than when he first arrived on the scene in 2011, and as a result, it has allowed him to flourish this season.
"He's always been a confident hitter," Farrell said. "I thought the second time he came up last year, he was more comfortable with himself and had a better idea of not only what the big leagues were about, but also what opposing pitchers were trying to do to him. As time has gone on, he hasn't chased the ball up and away from him as he did when he first came up last year."
Among Blue Jays starters, Thames trails only Edwin Encarnacion in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS, and he seems to be locked in at the plate more than ever. Thames is doing a much better job at waiting for his pitch, and over the past seven games, he's batting .400 with a .444 on-base percentage.
"He has swung the bat with authority," Farrell said. "He's in that group in that second half of the linuep that has been very productive."
Not playing, but Vizquel ejected
TORONTO -- Omar Vizquel was ejected for arguing from the bench in Tuesday's 8-7 win against Texas in the top of the fifth inning by home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook while Blue Jay starter Drew Hutchison was pitching to David Murphy.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell came out to argue with Holbrook about the incident, but the shortstop was forced to leave the ballgame. Vizquel did not start the game and was sitting on the bench when the ejection occurred.
Vizquel, 45, was the first Blue Jays player to be ejected from a game this season.
The veteran has appeared in five games and is batting .091 in 11 at-bats.
Encarnacion named Toronto's player of month
TORONTO -- Edwin Encarnacion was named the Blue Jays Honda Player of the Month for April by the Toronto Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. On behalf of Encarnacion, Honda will make a donation to the charity of his choosing.
The designated hitter was a near-unanimous choice -- receiving all but one first-place vote -- after leading Toronto in most offensive category entering Tuesday.
Encarnacion is batting .322 with eight homers, 21 RBIs and 16 extra-base hits and has homered in four consecutive games, tying him with Carlos Delgado and Joe Carter for the second-longest streak in club history. Jose Cruz Jr. has the record with six, set in 2001.
Entering Tuesday, Encarnacion was the only player in the Majors leading his team in home runs, RBIs and stolen bases.
Farrell not about to make lineup changes
TORONTO -- Several Blue Jays hitters have struggled to the start the season, especially All-Star Jose Bautista and shortstop Yunel Escobar, but manager John Farrell is not putting much stock in how his players have performed over the first month of the season.
Farrell said he's content with the top portion of his lineup -- where Escobar and Bautista have been slotted -- but that's not to say he's going to be patient with the batting order forever.
"I think individually, you look at 100 at-bats as a pretty good sample size or picture into what a guy is currently doing," Farrell said. "You look at the 35- to 40-game mark collectively as a team to get a better read to where we are, our strengths and where our areas of limitations might be. The one thing that I don't want to do is make wholesale changes and then there is a lot of wondering what is going on. When changes are made, those players will be talked to before it's made public."
One of the first changes that Farrell may make to the lineup, eventually, is flip-flopping Escobar and Kelly Johnson, who is currently hitting in the No. 2 spot -- but stressed he isn't ready to go down that road just yet. Farrell experimented with having Johnson lead off followed by Escobar in the order during Spring Training, but he prefers to have his players work through their slumps -- noting it creates stability.
As for Bautista, who is batting just .181 entering Tuesday's match against the Rangers, don't expect him to be moved in the lineup, perhaps ever. Farrell believes Bautista has started to turn the corner dating back to an earlier series in Kansas City, where he hit his last home run, and that his timing is coming around while his head [of the bat] isn't flying off the ball as much.
"He has ... however long it takes for him -- we believe in him, we are confident in him and we will continue to work on getting his timing and production back to where he typically is," Farrell said, when asked if he would contemplate moving Bautista down in the order. "We've been spoiled, and everyone in Toronto longer than I have, over the two-plus years of elite performance.
"He's our three-hole hitter."
One of the things that has plagued Bautista early on, according to Farrell, is that he's been overswinging and pressing at the plate, as he could be trying to make up for missed opportunities from earlier in the season.
Bautista has hit three homers and driven in 10 runs after going deep 97 times and producing 227 RBIs the past two seasons combined. The right fielder has an OPS of .634 after leading the Majors in that category in 2011 with a mark of 1.056.
Jeff Mathis started Tuesday's game at catcher against Texas, the second time he has started in the past three games. J.P. Arencibia will still get the bulk of the work, but Blue Jays manager John Farrell likes what he has seen from Mathis.
"Jeff being in the lineup Tuesday is a byproduct of Ricky [Romero] pitching tomorrow in a day game," Farrell said, as Arencibia is Romero's primary catcher. "So the schedule has been factored in to have Jeff in tonight, but that doesn't mean we are reluctant to have Jeff in there. We are confident in both guys."
Mathis has been productive early on, batting .313 with two homers and a 1.201 OPS over six games.
Chris Toman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.