Thames, on the disabled list since April 19 with a left rib cage strain, is taking batting practice with his teammates this week as he works back into full activities. The Tigers hope to have Thames head to Toledo after Detroit's upcoming series against the Rockies and meet the Mud Hens when they return home Monday for an eight-game homestand. Under that timetable, he could be ready to be activated from the DL when the Tigers begin their next homestand on June 2.
"He needs to get about 30 at-bats or so," manager Jim Leyland said. "I really think that, because of the injury in Spring Training, he hasn't really gotten in sync at all to begin the season, so I think it'll do him wonders. We'll just have to play it by ear to see when he's ready."
Thames missed nearly three weeks in March with a strained abdominal muscle, then battled a stiff back early in April. Once thought to be the main beneficiary in at-bats when the Tigers released Gary Sheffield in the final week of Spring Training, Thames instead received just 18 at-bats over six games before he hurt himself taking extra batting practice one afternoon during the Tigers' series at the Angels last month.
The Tigers have rolled along, minus Thames, with a combination of young left-handed hitters such as Josh Anderson and Clete Thomas. Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez were taking the bulk of the time at designated hitter with Thames out before Guillen went on the DL with a sore right shoulder and Ordonez left the team a few days ago to be with his wife as she awaited surgery.
Much as the Tigers have benefited from what Anderson and Thomas have contributed, Leyland said Thursday morning, they're going to need their veteran hitters.
Guillen is not expected to be ready for a rehab stint when the Tigers leave town. He said he hasn't heard whether he'll stay back or travel with the club and take swings under the watch of team medical staff and hitting coach Lloyd McClendon.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.