Found March 14, 2012 on Fox Sports North:
Mlb_pittsburgh_pirates_e2b4
CLEARWATER, Fla. During his two seasons with the Minnesota Twins, slugger Jim Thome never played in the field. His 664 plate appearances all came as either a designated hitter or pinch hitter. "He didn't even have a glove when he was with us," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I looked in his locker for one more than once. I couldn't find one." Now back in the National League with the Philadelphia Phillies, Thome has had to pick up a glove once again. Before the visiting Twins took batting practice Wednesday at Bright House Field, the 41-year-old Thome put on his glove, played catch in the outfield and took some reps at first base. Any Twins fan who made the trip from Fort Myers likely had to do a double take. "He didn't play catch. You have to play catch at least once before I put you in defensively," Gardenhire said of Thome's time with the Twins. "He didn't do that. Our goal was just to get him at-bats, as many as we possibly could and keep him available." Thome hasn't played first base regularly since his last stint with Philadelphia. He spent 134 games at first base in 2004 but saw that number drop to 52 games in 2005. He's been dealing with back problems since playing for the Twins, but Thome has been willing to once again play some defense in order to get his bat in the Phillies' lineup. "I think the key for me is getting my body to react again to playing the field and being out there more than I have in the last six or seven years," Thome said. "It's going to be a phase where I'm going to have to go through some times physically to get to where I want to get, and we're working hard at that." The Twins faced Thome for a series last year after they traded him to Cleveland, but it was a different scene Wednesday in Clearwater. Seeing the swarm of Twins players approach Thome as they took the field was a sign of how the potential Hall of Famer is respected around the league. After Thome spent time talking with several of Minnesota's coaches, he was greeted with hugs from Justin Morneau, Ben Revere and others. "Seeing these guys, they're like my brothers," said Thome, who hopes to make the trip to face the Twins in Fort Myers on March 28. "You build relationships. You build that close kind of brotherly family, whether you're there a year or two or three or 10. You always, I think, have an interaction with your teammates, and these guys were very special." In 2010, Thome's first year with the Twins, Minnesota finished 94-68 to win the American League Central. Thome played a big role in the Twins' success that year, as he hit 25 homers and drove in 59 runs. Among the highlights for Minnesota that season was Thome's walk-off home run against the Chicago White Sox at Target Field. Last year, Thome became the eighth player in baseball history to hit 600 home runs, doing so with the Twins in mid-August at Detroit. Just a few weeks later, though, he was traded to the Indians the team he spent his first 12 seasons with from 1991-2002. This winter, Thome signed a one-year contract with Philadelphia after the Phillies contacted him early in free agency. Despite being limited in the field, he headed back to the National League and to Philadelphia, where he played for manager Charlie Manuel from 2003-05. "I got a chance to go back to Cleveland at the end of last year. And then the first week of free agency, these guys called," Thome said of the Phillies. "I told my wife, I said if it got into January and February and a team hadn't called, I would have been content on retiring. I was." Thome, in his 22nd big league season, isn't sure when he finally will retire. When that happens, he has a chance to finish his illustrious career as No. 7 on the all-time home run list. Currently sitting at 604 home runs, Thome is just five away from tying former Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa. Thome has hit fewer than five home runs just twice in his career during his first two seasons in the league in 1991 and 1992. One thing that's eluded Thome his entire 21-year career, however, is a World Series ring. Now on a Phillies squad that won 102 games in 2011, Thome might finally have a shot at that championship. "I know you can't play forever. I know that," Thome said. "I think everyone knows my dream is to win a World Series. It should be every player's dream to win a World Series. "To be on this journey and be back with a team that I left Cleveland to come over here, and you watch and being around these guys every day, how they've won and how they approach the game I think it makes you young again, but it also drives you to whatever your role is, trying to fit that and be a part of a winner. That's what I look forward to." The Twins won't get the chance to face Thome in the regular season, and he wasn't in the Phillies' starting lineup for Wednesday's game. But he had the chance to once again catch up with his old teammates and coaches. It was an opportunity for which both sides were grateful. "I think if you sit back, probably when you're all said and done, and you start talking about some of the greatest players you ever had a chance to be out on the field with, his name definitely comes right up in there," Gardenhire said. "He's the whole package. He brought a lot to the table, but the way he respects the game of baseball probably more than anything." Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Phillies Nation TV: Blanton’s Value, Dontrelle, Doc Struggles

This week on Phillies Nation TV, Pat and I dived into possible trades for Joe Blanton. The Blue Jays interest seems to have cooled but we look at whether or not moving Blanton makes sense to begin with.We also examined Dontrelle Willis’ odds of making the team and why Charlie Manuel might be to blame for his early struggles.Later in the show we talked teams to fear in the National...

Morneau still searching for his spring swing

CLEARWATER, Fla. Justin Morneau is struggling at the plate, but the Twins first baseman isn't concerned about his offense just yet. After a 0-for-5 performance Wednesday against Philadelphia, Morneau is batting .136 (3-for-22) with five strikeouts this spring. Morneau missed a good portion of the last two seasons after a concussion in 2010 and multiple ailments in 2011. He...

Spring Training Gameday: Split Squad Madness!

There are TWO games today. Most of the starters are staying home to play the Braves featuring a start by Joe Blanton and an appearance by Dontrelle Willis. David Hale speculates that this could be Willis’ last appearance in red pinstripes if the outing does not go well. Willis has been plagued by arm fatigue and soreness and part of his contract becomes guaranteed on Saturday....

Hamels Solid as Phils Fall to Astros

Cole Hamels pitched five innings in his third grapefruit league start, striking out four and giving up just one run in the Phillies 6-5, 10 inning loss to the Houston Astros. He has looked sharp in each of those outings, posting a 1.69 ERA in 10 2/3 innings.Domonic Brown hit his first home run of the spring in the 10th inning, a solo home run. Brown went 2-for-5 on the day. By all...

Chase Utley Injury, Will He Be The Same?

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Chase Utley is a hard man to find at Bright House Field. He has not played a single inning in a single Grapefruit League game, with Opening Day just three weeks away. He has not fielded a ground ball during batting practice or participated in fielding drills in weeks. He plays catch and takes BP, but seems to spend the rest of his time in the trainer’s room...

Doumit has long admired the Twins

FORT MYERS, Fla. The Minnesota Twins had issues with health at first base and catcher. They also lost a pair of right fielders in free agency. Now, the Twins are hoping veteran Ryan Doumit can fill in at any of those positions whenever they need him. Minnesota signed the versatile Doumit to a one-year contract this offseason, and he's now in his first spring training with his...

Minnesota Twins have ultimate underdog story in spring training

While spring training can be devastating for those who have to face the reality of not making a team, it also brings out a great deal of happiness for some, especially for those players who have labored a long time to reach a certain level.  Down in Fort Myers, FL where the Minnesota Twins train there seems to be one really happy, perhaps giddy player.       The guy who we...

2 Twins minor leaguers draw 50-game drug penalties

Two minor league pitchers in the Minnesota Twins organization have been suspended 50 games each under baseball's minor league drug program. Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that Yeison Florentino and Ezequiel Zarzuela each tested positive. They both play on the Twins' team in the Dominican Summer League. Florentino tested positive for metabolites of Nandrolone and...

Astros notes: Pence faces former team

Livan Hernandez pitched five scoreless innings and allowed 5 hits in his outing against the Phillies Tuesday. "I threw the ball down today," said Hernandez. "Everything is going the way I want and I feel better and better every time I go on the mound." Former Astro Hunter Pence was back in Kissimmee Tuesday as the Phillies made a visit to Osceola County Stadium...

Dozier not taking things for granted with Twins

FORT MYERS, Fla. Brian Dozier is a pretty good baseball player, but he's also a pretty good golfer. Dozier, the Minnesota Twins' 24-year-old shortstop prospect, was a four-sport athlete at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Miss. He was the quarterback of the football team and the point guard on the Indians basketball team, as well as a shortstop. But he always...

Phillies 6, Rays 6

Spring training invitees Juan Pierre and Joel Pineiro helped their cases for making the Phillies, with solid starts for a Philadelphia split squad in a 6-6 tie with the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday. Pierre, a speedy outfielder, had two hits, two RBIs and scored twice - all in the first two innings for the Phillies. Pineiro started for Philadelphia, allowing a run on two hits and...

AP Newsbreak: No expanded replay in MLB this year

Center fielder Curtis Granderson raising his glove, hoping to convince an umpire that he made the catch. Jim Thome twisting his body, trying to coax a liner to kick up chalk. Those tricky calls aren't being farmed out to technology quite yet. Major League Baseball says expanded replay is out for this year, with the goal now to put the extra looks in play for 2013. Baseball...

Blue Jays 8, Twins 2

Francisco Liriano's fast spring start slowed Tuesday when the Toronto Blue Jays scored four runs off him in the third inning and beat the Minnesota Twins 8-2. The streaky lefty, who pitched a no-hitter last year while going 9-10, struck out five. But Toronto's Travis Snyder and Travis d'Arnaud hit consecutive two-run doubles off the right-field fence against Liriano...

Jurrjens struggles, Braves fall to Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) -- Scott Podsednik hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh inning and Dontrelle Willis tossed a scoreless inning, helping the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves 6-4 on Thursday. Matt Diaz and Dan Uggla hit solo homers for the Braves. Jair Jurrjens had a rough outing, allowing four runs and nine hits in four innings. Podsednik had one of six...
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.