Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 6/9/12

Jim Thome spent seven weeks in spring training attempting to get his 41-year-old body in shape to play in the field for the first time in seven seasons. After chronic back pain crept up in the first month of the season, Thome was placed on the disabled list, the team shelved its plan to play him at first base and he went back to Clearwater, Fla.

But when Thome returned to the Phillies' spring training facility, he went down with the idea of getting his back healthy and his bat in gear. So far, mission accomplished.

In his first start since being activated Wednesday, Thome went 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI on Friday in the Phillies' 9-6 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

"When you go on rehab, you're injured, all that time down there -- you take it serious," said Thome, who spent most of May rehabbing a back injury in Clearwater, Fla., "You work hard. And you hope that that hard work pays off when you're in a situation like this coming back. It doesn't guarantee anything, but it feels nice to contribute and play a part in a 'W,' for sure."

The timing of Thome's return was perfect. After facing live pitching for the better part of the last two weeks in Clearwater, Thome was plugged into the designated hitter position for the first of nine straight games the Phillies will play in American League ballparks.

The increased at-bats could be the key to getting his bat in gear. Thome entered the night hitting .100 (2-for-20) with two singles.

"We're going to get a look at him," Manuel said before Friday's game. "If you send him up to pinch hit for one at-bat, you can't tell too much. You put him in a game and let him get three or four at-bats for a few days, that'll be a good indication."

Thome has performed will in interleague play in his career. In all-time interleague play ranks, Thome entered the night fourth in hits (94), tied for fifth in RBI (150), and seventh in on-base percentage (.417) and slugging percentage (.598).

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