03/27/11 1:45 PM ET
Thames, Cooper among Blue Jays' cuts
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
Toronto returned seven players -- first baseman David Cooper, outfielder Eric Thames and pitchers Winston Abreu, Chad Cordero, Sean Henn, Mike Hinckley, Wilfredo Ledezma and Rommie Lewis -- to its Minor League camp on Sunday.
The Blue Jays now have 32 players remaining in Major League camp, including five that will begin the season on the disabled list.
Prior to Sunday's game against the Orioles, Thames led the club with 58 at-bats in the Grapefruit League. After a hot start, his batting average has slowly dropped to .228, but he has recorded five extra-base hits while posting 11 RBIs.
The 24-year-old is set to begin the year with Triple-A Las Vegas. He will look to build on a successful 2010 campaign with Double-A New Hampshire, where he posted a .288 average with 27 home runs and 104 RBIs.
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"He needs work defensively, he needs work on the basepaths. We'd like to get him as confident in those two areas as he is in the [batter's] box, and we feel like we'll have an everyday Major League player."
Cooper was another player that made a strong impression during his stint with the Major Leaguers. He hit .333 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 42 spring at-bats.
It was a bounce-back spring of sorts after Cooper managed to hit just .257 with Double-A New Hampshire last year. Farrell was particularly impressed with the power he displayed throughout camp.
"I think he has felt more comfortable as camp as gone on," Farrell said. "The last two years, he's hit .257, .258 for whatever reason ... but when you look at the swing you project him to be a guy that's going to hit for some average and hit for some power.
"There are guys that the higher they go, the more productive they become, because pitchers pitch around the strike zone more. That may be the case with David, but he has turned around some very good pitching."
Thames and Cooper represent the last of the Blue Jays' top prospects to be cut from camp. The club's young talent became one of the ongoing storylines in Dunedin, Fla., and Farrell had a first-hand opportunity to monitor their progress.
Prior to accepting an offer to become manager, Farrell heard plenty about Toronto's Minor League system. He knew it was good but wasn't aware of just how deep the talent goes.
"I think there has been the realization that there is a greater quantity of quality prospects than first thought," Farrell said of his spring impressions. "You can read reports on paper, but once you start putting abilities with names, then you see it play out.
"Even though it's Spring Training, it's still a tangible feel and a tangible view of what they're capable of. They're more than expected."
The Blue Jays will have Brandon Morrow and relievers Jesse Carlson, Octavio Dotel, Frank Francisco and Dustin McGowan begin the year on the disabled list. That leaves just two players -- catcher Ryan Budde and infielder Jonathan Diaz -- who appear likely to be cut from the team.
Budde will begin the season with Las Vegas, where he will split time with prospect Brian Jeroloman. Budde could receive a promotion to the Majors if either J.P. Arencibia or Jose Molina suffer an injury during the year.
Diaz is an insurance policy in case second baseman Aaron Hill is unavailable at the start of the season. Hill has been working his way back from a right quadriceps injury, but all signs point to him breaking camp with the club, barring any last-minute setbacks.
The 25-year-old Diaz has made a name for himself in camp with his glove in the field. He has the ability to play second base, third and shortstop and Farrell called him a "Johnny Mac clone" earlier in Spring Training, in reference to defensive whiz John McDonald.
Farrell wouldn't commit to when the final round of cuts would be made, but it will likely happen within the next couple of days.
"We'll discuss that with every guy that is still in camp that may or may not going north with us," Farrell said. "That's barring any additional moves we may make before Wednesday gets here. We feel like we're getting closer to that number."