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Frank Thomas is hitless in his last 13 at-bats and averaging a lowly .167 overall. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Frank Thomas was livid over being benched Saturday afternoon, even though he is off to a sluggish start this season.

Thomas, 39, was told Saturday by manager John Gibbons that Fredericton's Matt Stairs will DH unless he turns things around. 

"I'm angry," Thomas said. "I know I can help this team.

"My career is not going to end like this."

Thomas was so upset that he refused to shake hands with teammates following Toronto's 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

He is hitless in his last 13 at-bats and just 4-for-35 since homering in three straight games from April 5-8.

"I feel for the guy," Gibbons said. "But right now, we need more production."

"As a team, we're struggling offensively," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "I just think Gibby is trying to spark our offence a little bit."

Thomas is hitting a lowly .167 with three home runs, 11 runs batted in and seven runs scored in 16 games this season. 

Stairs, by comparison, is hitting .333 after going 2-for-3 with a walk in Saturday's win.

"I'm going to put the team out there that gives us the best chance to win," Gibbons said.

"The decision is the manager's, based on what he thinks is best for the team," Ricciardi said.

Thomas is in the second year of a two-year, $18-million US contract signed Nov. 17, 2006.

The pact contains an option clause for 2009 - worth $10 million US - that kicks in if he makes 376 plate appearances.

Asked if he thought the Blue Jays were trying to limit his at-bats because of the option, Thomas replied: "It's pretty obvious. Sixty at-bats isn't enough to

make that decision."

"If the situation dictates, I will let the games play out," Gibbons said.

Thomas, a notorious slow starter, hit .277 last season with a team-high 26 home runs and 96 runs batted in.

He is a lifetime .302 hitter with 516 HRs, 1,685 RBIs and 1,474 runs scored in 2,267 games over 19 MLB seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics and Blue Jays.

His 264 homers as a designated hitter is a major-league record.

"Take a look at the other big-time DHs out there," Thomas said. "Look at Jim Thome [.182, 4 HRs, 13 RBIs] and Gary Sheffield [.208, 1 HR, 2 RBIs].

"My numbers are right on par with them. They're getting more than 60 at-bats."

Thomas ranks 18th all-time in homers and is one of four players in major-league history with a .300 average, 500 HRs, 1,500 RBIs, 1,000 runs and 1,500 walks.

The others are Mel Ott, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams.

With files from the Canadian Press