Notes: Jays call up Thigpen
Young catcher will be asked to play first base for Toronto
TORONTO -- Hours before game time on Tuesday, Curtis Thigpen took his place at first base at Rogers Centre and scooped up a series of ground balls. It was an interesting scenario, considering Thigpen is regarded as Toronto's top catching prospect.
After Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay landed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken right hand, though, Toronto decided to give Thigpen the chance to help temporarily fill the void in the infield. The 24-year-old catcher, who had his contract purchased from Triple-A Syracuse, is athletic enough to move out from behind the plate, but he hasn't played first regularly since his days at the University of Texas.
"I played there a little bit in college a couple years ago," said Thigpen, who was drafted out of Texas in 2004. "I guess you could kind of say it's like riding a bike. I'll just get over there and catch it and throw it -- field ground balls and knock it down. I feel OK over there."
Matt Stairs, who has played 245 games at first base over 15 seasons in the Majors, started at first against the Devil Rays on Tuesday. Toronto manager John Gibbons has indicated that Stairs will garner most of the playing time at first while Overbay is out, but added that Thigpen is slated to start at the position on Wednesday.
In 44 games with Syracuse, Thigpen hit .299 with three home runs and 16 RBIs. The Blue Jays named him the Triple-A Player of the Month for May after he had a batting average of .323 in 25 games last month. Thigpen's offense has always been a strong point, and his athleticism has had Toronto toying with the idea of converting him into an infielder.
"There's been talk about it," said Thigpen, who played three games at second base for Syracuse this season. "But I want to catch, and I feel like I can catch. ... I know it can be a good attribute for me to be able to play other positions, and it can really help a team out to have a guy who can play other positions besides catch."
Looking ahead: Thigpen's current stint with the Jays might only be a short-term solution for replacing Overbay, though. Gibbons said that the club will likely re-evaluate its roster before this weekend, when Toronto travels to Los Angeles for an Interleague set against the Dodgers.
Blue Jays catcher Gregg Zaun -- also out with a hand injury, but currently rehabbing with Triple-A Syracuse -- should be able to join the team in L.A. on Friday, when he'd be activated from the 15-day DL. Toronto will have to decide who to remove from the roster to clear room for Zaun, and if Thigpen will remain on the Jays' bench.
"You never know how long [Thigpen] is going to be here, we don't know that. Let him enjoy it while he's here," Gibbons said. "We're kind of thinking whether we need [an extra bench player] or an extra pitcher. ... We'll look at it and see how we're strongest."
Well armed: Entering Tuesday's game against Tampa Bay, Toronto's bullpen ranked second in the American League with a 3.31 ERA. While relievers Casey Janssen and Jeremy Accardo have garnered most of the attention, left-hander Brian Tallet has also played a large part of the relief corps' early success.
"It's just a matter of trust and belief in what I can do on the mound," said Tallet, who entered Tuesday with a 2.01 ERA in 14 outings. "I'm able to attack hitters now, because I have confidence in myself. Earlier in the season, I was walking a lot of guys."
Tallet has a point. In the nine appearances that the southpaw issued at least one walk, he's gone 0-1 with a 3.29 ERA for the Jays. In the five games in which Tallet has allowed no walks, the left-hander has picked up two wins and yielded no runs.
Overbay has surgery: On Tuesday, Overbay underwent surgery on his right hand, which was fractured when the first baseman was hit by a pitch on Sunday. He had the operation performed in Baltimore by Dr. Thomas Graham, who also operated on Zaun's right hand in April. Gibbons said Overbay is still expected to miss at least four-to-six weeks.
Marcum update: Blue Jays right-hander Shaun Marcum, who exited his start on Sunday after three innings due to tightness in his back, is still scheduled to take the mound as planned on Saturday against the Dodgers. Marcum is 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in five starts for the Jays this season.
Roster move: In order to clear room on the 40-man roster for Thigpen, Toronto transferred right-hander John Thomson (shoulder tendinitis) from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL. The move was simply a paperwork decision, considering Thomson has been on the DL since May 31. Through six Minor League rehab starts, Thomson is 2-1 with a 2.94 ERA.
Quotable: "He's a Texan. That's all that matters." --Gibbons, joking about Thigpen
Coming up: Toronto right-hander Tomo Ohka (2-4, 5.30 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound when the Blue Jays host the Devil Rays at 7:07 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Rogers Centre. Tampa Bay will counter with left-hander Scott Kazmir (3-3, 3.95 ERA).
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.