While Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced Wednesday that Curtis Granderson would be an everyday player for the near future, including starts against most left-handed starters, Leyland set up the same for Thames. Detroit's power-hitting platoon bat is now the regular left fielder.
"Marcus can be a streaky guy," Leyland said. "and hopefully we can get him on a streak. I've got to try something."
Thames was already scheduled to be in the lineup Wednesday, batting third in the order against Angels left-hander Joe Saunders. The change will come when he stays in there this weekend against Seattle's three right-handed starters. If he can take Wednesday's success into that series, he won't be sitting anytime soon.
After learning of the change before Wednesday's game, Thames hit a pair of two-run homers off Saunders, giving the outfielder the fifth multi-homer game of his career and furthering his reputation as someone who hits a lot of homers without a lot of at-bats.
"I just want to get a chance to get in there, whatever they want me to do," Thames said after Wednesday's 6-2 win. "It's good to hear, but I still have to come out and play. I have to stay focused and do my job."
Thames essentially unseats the time-sharing plan he had with Matt Joyce, who was optioned to Triple-A Toledo after Wednesday's game so that he can play regularly. The Tigers recalled Clete Thomas from Toledo to serve as an extra outfielder with some speed.
Thames has had his stints as an everyday player over the course of his career in Detroit. He filled in for an injured Craig Monroe two years ago and ended up with 110 games played, then succeeded Monroe down the stretch last year after rookie Cameron Maybin struggled against big league pitching.
Thames' power ratios have always been inviting. With two homers Wednesday, his rate of at-bats per home run dropped to 13.9 so far this season, well ahead of his career rate of 15.3. Part of that, however, comes from the way the Tigers have used him.
Forty-five of his 71 plate appearances this season entering Wednesday had come against right-handed pitching, but all five of his home runs this season have been off left-handers.
"You hear guys say, 'Oh man, if you play this amount of days, you'll do this and you'll do that,'" Thames said. "I laugh. It sounds good, but that wasn't my role. I knew my role. Of course, everybody wants to play every day. Hopefully I'll get a chance to go out there for a couple days and do what I can do."
How long that will last is unclear. Leyland said he didn't know how long he would play Thames regularly, but if he can provide some punch to a struggling Tigers lineup, it could be a while.
"Marcus has earned his shot over the last couple years," Leyland said. "Let's see if he can do it."
Thomas made Detroit's Opening Day roster with Curtis Granderson on the disabled list but was sent to Toledo when Granderson returned in late April. Thomas struggled with the Mud Hens at the outset but had recovered recently, batting .308 over his last 10 games to boost his average to .242 for the season. He has five home runs, six doubles and 20 RBIs in 128 at-bats for the Hens.
With Leyland, though, it's not simply about the stats Thomas brings. His speed and energy were two reasons Leyland cited behind the move.
"I think Thomas is a real energy guy," Leyland said. "I think that's something this club needs. I think this club really enjoyed having him up here. I thought he was a good personality for our club. He's a popular guy. He can beat out an infield hit. He can go from first and third. He can do some things. I like him.
"Is he ready for all this yet? Probably not, but we felt like Joyce needed some more seasoning, too. This is a tough league up here. But I'm happy we've got two good prospects."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.