Thome Lands in Baltimore Ready to Make an Impact
The Baltimore Orioles are extremely happy to have acquired Jim Thome from the Philadelphia Phillies for two Class-A players. Thome, 41 had been struggling to find his place in the Phillies’ line-up due to his aging body not allowing him to play first base anymore. When the veteran signed with the club in the offseason, he had hoped to be able to contribute to the club on a full-time basis, returning to the field of play that the left handed slugger had to abandon due to nagging back injuries during his time with the Chicago White Sox. Unfortunately for Thome his body did not cooperate, and until interleague play began he saw only sporadic at bats as a pinch hitter. Even in his limited role Thome managed a .242 average for the Phillies with 5 homers and 15 RBIs, including a game-winning walk-off homer against Tampa on June 23rd which would serve as his final hit with the club. 4 of those homers and 14 of the RBIs came during the nine interleague appearances Thome made as the Phillies’ designated hitter which sparked immediate interest in him from a number of American League teams looking for help to keep them in the playoff chase.
With the Orioles, Thome will be able to return to being a designated hitter and hopes to help a team that has surprised everyone this year by remaining in contention in the Yankee/Rays heavy American League Eastern Division. Besides his 609 career home runs (tied for seventh all-time with Sammy Sosa) and his career .277 batting average, Thome brings with him 2,515 games and 8,321 at bats worth of experience to a very young ball club who are still struggling to find their stride heading into the All-Star break. Thome has a history of being one of the most approachable players in the game, and he will undoubtedly be able to share tips with his younger teammates that will improve their game and keep the team afloat in the division.
The move to Baltimore makes the Orioles Thome’s sixth franchise in his 22-year career. Thome broke through with the Cleveland Indians, making his Major-League debut in 1991 for the Tribe when they were much like the Orioles now, a young team that was being built from the ground up with talent that was either drafted, or acquired through trades that would help build a contender in the coming seasons. The formula worked magically for the Indians, and Thome went on to become one of the most feared hitters in the game, spending the next 12 years in an Indians uniform and becoming the club’s all-time home run leader. In 2002, Thome left Cleveland for Philadelphia where he continued to play well before missing much of the 2005 campaign due to injuries. In 2006, Thome went to the Chicago White Sox where he began to transition from a position player to a designated hitter, but injuries plagued him and he missed significant time in both 2007 and 2009 which saw Chicago trade him to the Los Angeles Dodgers for whom he played in just 17 games with 17 at-bats as a pinch-hitter.
Following the 2009 season, Thome returned to the American League, signing with the Minnesota Twins, but injuries followed him there as well and he played in just 179 games for the club in 2010 and 2011. Thome would hit his historic 600 th home run as a member of the Twins in 2011 before being sent back to Cleveland on waivers for the final month of the season which saw him hit 3 homers and drive in 10 runs for the Tribe. Cleveland declined to retain Thome’s services for the 2012 season, and there was speculation that he might decide to retire, but the Phillies offered him a one-year contract and much to the surprise of the majority of the baseball world, Thome agreed to their terms and committed himself to playing first base for the ball club in the absence of Ryan Howard, however after making just four starts at first, Thome landed on the disabled list in April with a back injury that effectively closed the door on him returning to the field for the club.
By: Robert Gonzalez
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