Now the Blue Jays look to put the distraction behind them as they close out a four-game home series with the Detroit Tigers on Monday.
The Blue Jays (10-9) released Thomas before Sunday’s 5-3 win over Detroit (6-13). On Saturday, Thomas angrily spoke about being benched after going hitless in 13 at-bats, saying Toronto was trying to keep him from meeting the criteria needed for the $10-million option for 2009 to kick in. Thomas would have had to make 376 plate appearances this season.
Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi denied the move had anything to do with the option and said it had more to do with the fact that the 39-year-old Thomas was hitting .167 in 60 at-bats.
“Our best opportunity is to put other guys in the lineup at this point,” Ricciardi said. “Obviously, reduced playing time is not something that he was interested in. In order to let him go forward and get on with his career, I think it’s fair to do it at this point.”
Thomas has 516 career homers, including 29 with Toronto, placing him 18th on baseball’s career list. The Blue Jays will have to pay the remainder of the two-year, $18-million contract Thomas signed in November 2006.
“It’s behind us now,” manager John Gibbons said. “We don’t have to deal with it anymore. I know he was frustrated but we move on.”
Thomas’ absence hasn’t seemed to hurt the Blue Jays, who improved to 2-0 without him following Sunday’s win. David Eckstein hit a three-run home run and Alex Rios and John McDonald also drove in runs.
Detroit, which opened the series on Friday with an 8-4 win, has lost three of four. The Tigers led 2-1 on Sunday after Clete Thomas’ two-run double in the fourth, but Toronto scored four runs in the bottom of the inning.
“We’re 6-13. That’s tough,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “At the same time, this is a good club and I expect it to roll at some point. When that is, I have no idea.”
The Tigers, whose 13 losses lead the AL, were without Gary Sheffield (shoulder) and Placido Polanco (back). Polanco returned to Detroit to be examined by doctors and his status for Monday is uncertain, while Sheffield will miss Monday’s game and will be examined further when the Tigers return home after this game.
The Tigers will try to salvage a split of this series when they send Armando Galarraga (1-0, 2.70 ERA) to the mound for the second time in place of the injured Dontrelle Willis. Galarraga pitched 6 2-3 innings in a 13-2 win over Cleveland on Wednesday, allowing two runs and one hit - a home run - while striking out six.
“I was a little bit nervous, but when I gave up the home run, I had to get going,” said Galarraga, who also hit two batters in his first career victory. “The runs made me feel more relaxed.”
The right-hander has never faced the Blue Jays.
Toronto will counter with Shaun Marcum (2-0, 2.61), who allowed two runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings on Tuesday in an 11-3 win over Baltimore.
The Blue Jays right-hander is 0-0 with a 7.36 ERA in three relief appearances against the Tigers.