Thome's last season? Not so fast, says slugger
When Jim Thome signed with the Phillies in November, it was widely believed that 2012 would be his final season.
The 41-year-old future Hall of Famer even hinted to that a number of times over the winter and in spring training.
But Thome’s sizzling hot June now has the slugger re-thinking whether he wants this to be his farewell season.
“It showed me that I can still play,” Thome said in an interview with Scott Palmer on the Phillies pregame show, Behind the Pinstripes, Sunday afternoon. “And to be honest, it really questions whether or not this will be my last year, to be dead honest.”
It’s way too early to even think about whether the Phillies would bring Thome back next season. Heck, Thome could ultimately come to the conclusion that this is indeed his final season. But, clearly, he has been energized by his recent hot streak – and he gives some credit to Ryan Howard for it.
Entering Sunday, Thome was hitting .317 with five homers and 15 RBIs in 14 games this month. Nine of those games were starts as the designated hitter.
“I never, never doubted my ability,” Thome said. “Ever. Ever.”
Thome’s finest moment of the month – one of the finest of the Phillies season, really – came Saturday afternoon when he lifted the Phils to a 7-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays with a game-winning, pinch-hit homer in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was the 13th walkoff home run of his career, a major league record. Thome has 609 career homers, tying him with Sammy Sosa for seventh on the all-time list. Thome has hit at least 100 homers with three different clubs – the Indians, White Sox and Phillies. Only three other players, Alex Rodriguez, Darrell Evans and Reggie Jackson, have done that.
Thome got off to a brutal start this season. He had difficulty adjusting to a pinch-hitting role and was just 2 for 18 in April. He strained his back late in the month and spent May rehabbing in Florida. During his time in Florida, he regained his health and got regular at-bats in minor-league exhibition games. His timing returned and he was ready to contribute in June.
In his interview on Behind the Pinstripes, Thome said his workouts in Florida with Howard were a key to his getting ready to help the Phillies in June. Howard, recovering from an Achilles injury, could be back in the lineup in mid-July. Thome thinks Howard could be better than ever.
“I was lucky to go down to Florida and spend some time with him,” Thome said of Howard. “I have to say, he is a pleasure to be around. I always knew Ryan Howard worked hard. But this kid works harder than any kid I've ever seen. He really does. I think maybe this injury that's happened to him, we'll look back on and go, ‘Wow.’ Not that it got him more focused. But to watch him in Florida, to watch him hit and watch him go about his business, he's a man on a mission. He is. He is. And I look forward to him coming back.
“We've talked a lot about our hitting and how similar we are. And I think he helped me. He helped me to be honest. I think he helped me when I came back as a DH to get myself in position. Before I went down there, I was not in a good position. I was not in good positions to hit. It was important that I went down and got at-bats. But Ryan Howard played an important part in that too.”E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org