Baseball

Blue Jays primed for World Series run: Frank Thomas

The Toronto Blue Jays brought newly signed designated hitter Frank Thomas to town on Tuesday.

Frank Thomas bounded to the microphone, flashed a million-dollar smile and said all the things Toronto Blue Jays fans have been dying to hear.

The Big Hurt is a Blue Jay because he thinks a World Series banner is just around the corner for the franchise.

He had other options, including staying in Oakland after reviving his career there last season, but he didn't think any other American League team offered the same potential he saw in Toronto.

"It's at the end of my career and I'm all about winning at this point," Thomas said Tuesday after being given his No. 35 Blue Jays jersey.

"I know this team is very close. Look at this lineup, there's superstar hitting around this lineup [and] there's superstar pitching.

"I'm telling you, with the right attitude, this team should be back in the World Series sooner or later."

Those are big words from a very big man, who seems intent on single-handedly bringing that winning attitude to the Rogers Centre.

Thomas joined the Blue Jays after signing a two-year, $18.12-million US contract, which includes a vesting option for a third season.

The deal was announced Nov. 17, but the team didn't officially introduce Thomas until Tuesday.

This could very well be the final hurrah in a career that should one day land Thomas in the hall of fame.

"This is a great ending for my career," he said. "I'm 38 now and, with the chance to be here for three years, that might complete it for me."

Thomas first made his mark as the most feared hitter on some very good Chicago White Sox teams in the early 1990s.

He was on the losing side of a six-game AL Championship Series in 1993 against the Blue Jays, who were on their way to a second straight World Series crown.

"I know what this organization's about," said Thomas, a two-time most valuable player in the AL.

"I've competed against them for so long. When you guys won those two rings, I was on the team that had the biggest disappointments of our life."

Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said Thomas wasn't originally in the team's plans because they assumed he wanted to stay in Oakland.

When the Blue Jays learned of Thomas's interest in Toronto, Ricciardi said it "was a full-court press for us."

Barajas balks at Blue Jays

Ricciardi thanked Thomas and his representatives for their co-operation during negotiations in what was perhaps a veiled shot at free-agent catcher Rod Barajas, who backed out of a deal late Monday.

After the Barajas deal fell apart, Toronto quickly re-signed Gregg Zaun to a two-year, $7.25-million US deal Tuesday morning.

Even though Ricciardi was happy to have Zaun back in the fold, he was clearly irked by the way the Barajas situation played out.

"Where I come from, your word means something and your handshake means something and we had more than a handshake," Ricciardi said. "I'll leave it at that."

Ricciardi later noted that he only wants players that are eager to play for the Blue Jays.

After signing Thomas and having dinner with him, it was clear that the Big Hurt certainly falls into that category.

"One of the things that really made me excited is that talking to Frank last night was like talking to a 12-year-old kid about baseball," Ricciardi said. "He has such a great love for the game, it's so refreshing.

"This guy wants to win. He's going to have a huge impact on our clubhouse."

No more ankle problems

Thomas had ankle problems and played a limited role with the White Sox team that won the 2005 World Series.

He and White Sox GM Kenny Williams had a very public and personal dispute after the slugger signed with Oakland.

Last season with the Athletics, Thomas proved many critics wrong, batting .270 in 137 games with 39 home runs and 114 runs batted in.

"I felt like I was 25 again," he said.

Thomas claims the ankle is no longer an issue and that he feels as good now as he has in three years.

Adding his bat to an already potent Blue Jays team gives them one of the most impressive lineups in baseball.

"Offensively, we're ready," Thomas said.

He is ready, too.

'Clean and clear'

Thomas sits at 487 homers and, most certainly, will become the first player to surpass the 500 mark while wearing a Blue Jays uniform.

Although a star during baseball's steroid controversy, he has never been accused of doping like Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco and Barry Bonds.

Thomas believes his natural size might have influenced the other power hitters to use steroids in an effort to keep up.

"[I'm] all clean and clear and I just want people to know that hard work pays off," he said. "I competed against those guys when they were on all that stuff.

"I've had a natural gift. And I've always worked extremely hard."