Towers appreciates Thomas' advice

Towers appreciates Thomas' advice

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Frank Thomas has witnessed a lot during his 17 seasons in the big leagues. So the veteran slugger wasn't surprised when he saw Blue Jays pitcher Josh Towers fuming in the dugout Wednesday night.

Towers was upset at a few questionable calls in the fourth inning, and Thomas wanted to make sure the pitcher didn't let the situation affect him too much. After all, Towers has had enough on his mind this spring as he tries to win a job in Toronto's rotation.

"I've been around this game a long time," Thomas said. "I've seen young guys get riled up because they're so motivated to do well, and I know he's going through a little thing right now, where he wants to prove he's ready and deserves to be a starter on this team."

The 38-year-old Thomas headed over to where Towers was sitting in Toronto's dugout and offered a few words of advice. True, had a pair of pitches been called strikes instead of balls, Towers' outing might've been different. Thomas wanted to remind the pitcher that there was nothing he could do about the situation, but to let it go.

"Frank kept getting on me. He was like, 'Hey, stay within yourself,'" Towers said. "He kept getting in my ear about, 'Hey, let it go. It's gone.' That's what you need and that's what you have to do.

"I can't control what goes on after I release the ball, and there's no reason I should let that affect how I'm going to perform. Frank did a pretty good job of reinforcing that to me."

The calls in question came in the fourth, when Towers threw two pitches to Philadelphia outfielder Michael Bourn that he felt were good enough to strike the hitter out. Instead, Towers walked Bourn with the bases loaded.

An inning later, Towers yielded a two-run home run to Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. When the Blue Jays pulled the right-hander from the game, he had given up five runs on nine hits in 4 2/3 innings -- a line score that Towers didn't believe reflected how good he felt in his fourth start of Spring Training.

"That cost me about six more pitches, a walk and a run and two extra hitters," said Towers, referring to the bases-loaded walk. "Then, getting pulled and not getting through five [innings] is kind of embarassing. That got me fired up."

Towers' pitch count had soared to 89, but he was feeling fine. In his last start, he felt fatigued when he reached the fourth inning, but that wasn't the case on Wednesday. Still, Towers was inconsistent with his command and he understood why he was lifted from the game.

"I actually felt great when [Jays manager John Gibbons] pulled me out of the game," Towers said. "I know I wasn't going to be able to talk him into leaving me in when I was close to 90 [pitches], but I didn't feel like I fatigued at all."

Towers, who is under contract for $2.9 million this year, is in competition with Tomo Ohka, Victor Zambrano and John Thomson for the fourth and fifth spots in Toronto's rotation. Thomson's currently dealing with a shoulder injury, but Ohka and Zambrano have been impressing the Blue Jays' brass.

So has Towers, who is trying to rebound from a disappointing 2006 season in which he went 2-10 with an 8.42 ERA. Entering Wednesday, the right-hander had a 2.00 ERA in his first three starts, but that increased to 4.61 after his most recent performance.

Thomas wanted to make sure Towers didn't let the outing affect him too much, though.

"I just told him, 'There's some things you can't control out there,'" Thomas said. "I just didn't want him to get so riled up that he'd lose his focus going into the next inning."

Or, his next start.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.