Thames Keeps Rolling For Jays
TORONTO — When outfielder Travis Snider was demoted in late April to work on his swing mechanics, the Blue Jays had a choice to make.
They considered several players at Triple-A Las Vegas to take Snider's place, ultimately deciding on first baseman David Cooper.
But outfielder Eric Thames probably won't be far behind. All three players made an impression in major league spring training, with Thames among the team leaders in at-bats. He had a breakout season by hitting .288/.370/.526 with 27 home runs and 104 RBIs at Double-A New Hampshire in 2010.
"He needs work defensively, he needs work on the basepaths," manager John Farrell said at the end of spring training. "We'd like to get him as confident in those two areas as he is in the box and we feel we'll have an everyday major league player. He'll go to Vegas, knowing that he's walked out of here with a very good impression left behind."
Thames has taken that advice to heart. He was hitting .339/.421/.579 in 121 at-bats during his Triple-A debut.
Prior to the 2010 season, Thames added yoga to his workout program, a change to give him more flexibility following a knee injury that limited him to 59 games in 2009. In 2008, a torn right quadriceps contributed to him falling to the seventh round of the draft, where Toronto selected him out of Pepperdine.
"I was on like my fourth surgery, I thought I needed to change my whole routine up, do something different," he said.
Last season, he also worked with New Hampshire hitting coach Ralph Dickenson on shortening his swing.
"At the lower levels you can get away with loop and loft on the swing," Thames said. "In Triple-A and the big leagues, guys will expose that. Especially this year coming in, I was working on staying down and through the ball to get that backspin."
• Outfielder Darin Mastroianni was demoted from Las Vegas to New Hampshire after batting .264/.297/.345 with five stolen bases in 22 games with the 51s.
• The Las Vegas clubhouse is full of first-round picks, even after Cooper, a first-rounder in 2008, moved up to Toronto. In addition to Snider (2006), there's third baseman Brett Lawrie (2008), outfielder Adam Loewen (2002) and pitchers Chad Cordero (2003) and Brett Cecil (2007), as well as hitting coach Chad Mottola (1992).