Thames gets first start in left field
Tigers demonstrate that outfielder isn't in straight platoon
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland cautioned that it wasn't a reactionary move, only a planning move. Thus, Marcus Thames received his first start of the season on Thursday, playing left field in place of Jacque Jones.
It was the first sign of how Leyland plans to use Thames in more than a simple platoon format with Jones in left. Though right-hander Zack Greinke started for the Royals on the mound Thursday, he's the latest in a string of righties to face the Tigers this week. Detroit won't face a left-handed starter until White Sox ace Mark Buehrle takes the mound at Comerica Park on Sunday night.
That was too long for Leyland to have Thames sit.
"I don't want [Sunday] to be his first game," Leyland said Thursday morning. "That's why Marcus Thames is playing today. It has nothing to do with Jacque Jones not getting hits. I already told Jacque Jones he'll be back in there tomorrow. But I want to give Marcus a game because he's going to play Sunday."
Thames went 0-for-4 with a strikeout at the plate. In the field, he provided one of the few Tigers highlights on the day, albeit an offbeat one, when he crashed into one of the posts of the left-field fence upon catching an Alex Gordon fly ball in the seventh inning.
Thames said he wasn't aware how close he was to the fence. He looked up just in time for his head to hit the padded post, knocking him back. He was able to smile about it afterwards.
Leyland said back in Spring Training that he wouldn't mind starting Thames against right-handed pitchers. He also said that he could use Thames in right field and at first base to give days off to Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen, respectively. With the season just a few days old, however, days of rest are far from a concern.
Too many days of rest for Thames, however, was somewhat of a concern.
"He's going to be a big part of our team," Leyland said.
Thus, Leyland is trying to strike the balance of how often to use Thames to keep him productive. He slugged 18 home runs with 54 RBIs in just 269 at-bats last year, but he also batted just .242 with 72 strikeouts, including a .199 average in the season's second half.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.