Big Hurt comes up small

Blue Jays DH Frank Thomas says opposing pitchers have been steadfast in their approach to him this...

Blue Jays DH Frank Thomas says opposing pitchers have been steadfast in their approach to him this season -- high inside or low and away and nothing to hit. (Sun File/Greg Henkenhaf)

MIKE RUTSEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

It's six weeks into the season and Frank Thomas has become the Claude Raines of the Blue Jays lineup.

At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, it's pretty hard to hide, but Thomas somehow has managed to become their Invisible Man.

The Big Hurt is hurting this season and we don't mean it the same as his teammates on the disabled list.

On Wednesday night, Thomas went 2-for-4 against Baltimore -- both singles -- and wrapped up a 5-4 homestand going 4-for-28 (.143).

And while the Jays have been scuffling for runs in going 5-10 this month, Thomas is hitting .212 (11-for-52) with a homer and five RBIs.

This weekend, Thomas will fade from sight altogether as the Jays play a three-game series in Philadelphia, beginning tonight, which means no designated hitter and Thomas reduced to a pinch-hitting role.

But if Jays fans are frustrated with what Thomas has produced, they're not alone.

If it's any consolation, Thomas is equally frustrated.

The problem, he says, is that he is not getting anything to hit, which tests his patience and eventually, out of frustration, leads him to chase pitches out of the zone.

"There is not much I can do about it right now," said Thomas, who is batting .236 for the season with five homers and 18 RBIs. "I've got to wait until they start finding the strike zone. I've been going after pitches (out of the strike zone) because that's all I've been getting. It's been weird."

They say patience has its rewards and Thomas has tried that route. He leads the team with 23 walks.

"I sit there and I try to be patient, but after a while you get a little crazy at times," said Thomas, who is eight home runs shy of 500 in his career. "They're religiously pitching me a certain way and they're sticking right to it, not really caring what the count is."

When Thomas comes to the plate, it's the same pitching strategy -- fastballs up and in and breaking balls away.

"I've been patient, patient, patient and they're still not giving in," he said. "It's not that I expect them to give in, but I do expect them to throw balls in the strike zone. You get 3-and-1, 2-and-1 and you're expecting they'll do what they've done your whole career (come back with a strike) but they're just not doing that."

But getting walks, having an on-base percentage of .351 -- third highest on the team -- is not what he is being paid for.

"I've just got to fight through this, because this is definitely no fun," he said. "Driving in runs is what I like to do. That's my livelihood and right now that's been taken away a little bit."

Even with runners in scoring position, Thomas said the approach against him has remained the same. It's in those at-bats that he tends to expand the zone in an effort to deliver, which has led to his poor performance hitting with runners in scoring position -- an .188 average, 6-for-32.

Physically and mechanically, Thomas said there's absolutely no problem.

"I feel fine," he said. "I'm just not getting enough cookies."


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