Blue Jays demote starting left fielder Eric Thames to minors

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Eric Thames had a solid 95-game debut with Toronto last season and then beat out Travis Snider for the starting left field job during spring training, but the Blue Jays have demoted the 25-year-old to Triple-A after he hit just .243 with three homers and a .652 OPS in 46 games.

That represents a 137-point drop in OPS compared to his rookie production and Thames’ on-base percentage was particularly awful at .288, due largely to a horrible 40/9 K/BB ratio.

Snider is currently on the Triple-A disabled list with a wrist injury, which keeps him from getting the nod to replace Thames despite hitting .333 with a 1.015 OPS in 26 games for Las Vegas.

Instead the Blue Jays seem likely to turn to Rajai Davis as the primary left fielder even though he’s hitting just .220 with a .705 OPS in a part-time role and lost a starting job last season by failing to produce at the plate. Once healthy presumably Snider will get a chance, but the timing of the Thames demotion combined with his injury is interesting.

Vladimir Guerrero continues to work out at the Blue Jays’ spring training complex, but he’s not really an option to play the field regularly at age 37 and likely remains several weeks from potentially joining the team anyway.

Reds having Michael Lorenzen prepare as a two-way player

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For decades, a legitimate “two-way player” — a player who functions as both a pitcher and as a position player — was nothing but a fantasy. The skill sets required for both are too distinct and require too much prep work, it was thought. The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani shattered that illusion in 2018, posting a .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances as a hitter while posting a 3.31 ERA in 51 2/3 innings as a pitcher.

Since then, several more players have been considered in two-way roles. The Rangers signed Matt Davidson earlier this month and could potentially use him as a corner infielder as well as a reliever. Also earlier this month, James Loney signed with the independent Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters, who plan to use him as both a first baseman and as a pitcher.

You can add Michael Lorenzen of the Reds to that list. MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon reports that the Reds will have Lorenzen prepare this spring as a two-way player. He could both start and relieve while occasionally playing in the outfield. Lorenzen, in fact, took batting practice with the outfielders on Thursday. Previously, he had taken batting practice as extra work following a workout with fellow pitchers.

Lorenzen said, “It’s fantastic, the effort they’re putting in. A lot of the excuses were, ‘You know, we don’t want to overwork him.’ Well, let’s just sit down and talk about it then. They were willing to sit down and talk about it, which is one of the reasons why I love this staff so much and why I think the front office did a great job [hiring] this staff. They’re willing to find solutions for problems.”

New manager David Bell said, “We’ve put together a plan for the whole spring, knowing we can adjust it at any time. We didn’t want to go into each day not knowing what he’s going to do. We all felt better, he did, too. He was part of putting it together.”

Lorenzen, 27, pitched 81 innings last year with a 3.11 ERA and a 54/34 K/BB ratio. He’s one of baseball’s best-hitting pitchers as well. Last year, he swatted four homers and knocked in 10 runs in 34 trips to the plate. The last pitcher to hit at least four homers in a season was the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner, who did it in both 2014 (four) and 2015 (five). Lorenzen also posted a 1.043 OPS. According to Baseball Reference, there have been only 11 pitchers to OPS over 1.000 (min. 30 PA). The only ones to do it in the 2000’s are Lorenzen last year, Micah Owings in 2007 (1.033) and Dontrelle Willis in 2011 (1.032).