Notes: Thames takes on Majors

Notes: Thames takes on Majors

TORONTO -- If Marcus Thames keeps going like this, Jim Leyland's brother might have to be nominated for Tigers Scout of the Year.

Thames' future as a Major League hitter was up for debate going into the season. Jim Leyland inherited him as a manager and didn't know much about him. But his brother, Larry, was willing to fill him in. A frequent fan at Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens games, Larry Leyland had seen Thames hit for two years, and he wasn't afraid to sell Thames to Jim. Given a chance, the message went, he can hit.

"My brother might get Tiger of the Year," Jim Leyland joked. "That's a heckuva scouting job. I'll tell you what, I'm beginning to take him seriously."

Opponents are doing the same thing with Thames. With 11 home runs in 127 plate appearances entering Friday, including nine in his last 23 games and three in the past week, Thames has found himself on opponents' radar screens. He's likely to stay there this weekend against the Blue Jays while Craig Monroe is out with a sprained right ankle.

"He gets a lot of respect," Leyland said of Thames. "If you watch Thames in a lot of situations, he gets pitched as tough as anyone we've got. It just goes unnoticed."

It shows in the stats. Not only does Thames have the team-best ratio of a home run every 10 at-bats, he also leads the club with his .394 on-base percentage. His 1.094 OPS (on base plus slugging) ranks second only to Albert Pujols among Major League hitters with at least 125 plate appearances this season.

Thames, who had stints with the Yankees and Rangers before joining the Tigers in 2004, chalks it up to finally getting a chance to play on a regular basis. The more pitches he sees, the more he can settle into a rhythm. He had been 1-for-10 for his career against Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield before doubling and homering off of him last Saturday. It was his seventh consecutive game played, and he's played every game since.

Friday's start in left was his 12th consecutive start. He hasn't had a day off since May 27.

As long as he plays like this, he isn't likely to have many days off soon. And the Leyland brothers aren't likely to run out of things to talk about.

"He gets so excited," Jim Leyland said of Larry. "He calls everybody when Thames does something. I love it. He's not really taking credit for it. He just gets a kick out of it. He loves Marcus Thames."

Speaking of Monroe: The Tigers' regular left fielder did not progress as much as he hoped with his sprained ankle. He was able to take batting practice but not take fly balls. At this point, a return next week could be more likely than this weekend.

Granderson OK: Curtis Granderson reported no ill effects from Thursday's collision with the U.S. Cellular Field fence other than scrapes on his right elbow from his fall onto the warning track. He said it looked worse on television than it actually was. In fact, it looked bad enough that his sister, who watched the game on WGN, called and asked if he broke his arm.

The brunt of the collision, Granderson said, came to his shoulder. He said he knew the fence was coming up, but he didn't know how close.

"It looked bad, but nothing," he said. "I expected more. No headache, no jolt, no shoulder [damage]. ... I thank the people who built it. They did a good job."

Leyland echoed that last part. "I'm just thankful it wasn't Wrigley Field," he said Thursday night.

Taking on the turf: With three games on an artificial surface, Leyland gave Ivan Rodriguez, Placido Polanco and Magglio Ordonez their choice of resting Saturday or Sunday. Despite a thin bench, he does not want to run the risk of pushing his veteran players into more injuries.

Polanco is showing signs of emerging from lingering back soreness. Rodriguez suffered back spasms Tuesday and played through soreness when he rejoined the lineup Thursday. Ordonez feels healthy but has felt knee soreness at times this season.

Whitecaps activate Maybin: Class A West Michigan activated Tigers top prospect Cameron Maybin from the disabled list Friday. Detroit's first-round pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft had missed a month with a stretched ligament in his right index finger.

Tigers sign 12th-rounder Bowen: Joseph Bowen, the Tigers' 12th-round pick in this week's First-Year Player Draft, has signed, according to the Star-Banner in Ocala, Fla.

Bowen, a well-regarded catcher out of Vanguard High School in the Ocala, Fla., area, played on former Tigers great Chet Lemon's AAU team. He had committed to play college ball at Central Florida but will report to the Tigers' Gulf Coast League affiliate in Lakeland instead.

Knight vision: Add Bobby Knight to the list of famous coaches in other sports with whom Leyland has a connection. The manager received a call from Knight letting him know that Kinght's son would be watching them next weekend when they face the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Leyland said he and Knight are friends despite the fact that Leyland skipped an invitation to attend a Texas Tech game last December with a group of other managers after the Winter Meetings. Leyland had to postpone for a change in plans -- signing of Kenny Rogers.

Coming up: Zach Miner (0-1, 6.75) gets his second chance at Major League hitters when he starts for the Tigers in the second game of their weekend series at Toronto 4:07 p.m. ET. Miner, starting in place of injured Mike Maroth, will face a Blue Jays lineup that leads the Majors in hitting.

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.