Jim Thome anxious to help Orioles stay in playoff position
Jim Thome arrived at Camden Yards on Sunday, eager to become a regular in the Baltimore Orioles lineup and to make a good team even better.
Acquired Saturday in a trade that sent two minor leaguers to Philadelphia, Thome, 41, hurriedly travelled from Miami to Baltimore and was in the starting lineup against Cleveland.
Playing in the American League means Thome can serve as a designated hitter.
"I expect to come to the ballpark and play every day," he said. "Can I do that? I mean, realistically, probably not. But I think the mentality every day is to come and be ready."
Thome batted fifth Sunday and received a standing ovation at Camden Yards before his first plate appearance, a groundout. He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Baltimore's 6-2 loss.
Thome didn't play as often as he would have liked for the last-place Phillies. He was, however, thankful to get a second chance to be in Philadelphia, where he starred from 2003-05.
"I think everybody knows my history in Philly. It's a great organization, they were first class," he said. "Obviously, I think they put me in a real good situation here, so I am excited again."
Thome expected to play more first base with the Phillies, but wasn't physically capable of doing so.
"That put them in a tough situation and I understood that," he said. "Then interleague happened and I was able to get some consistent at-bats. It was one of them things where it kind of made me really realize how much I did love the game and how much I did want to play and get those at-bats every day."
The lefty batting Thome has 609 home runs, tied with Sammy Sosa for seventh on the career list. He had 18 at Camden Yards in 67 games.
"It's always been a very good park to hit in, but ultimately you've got to go out and have good at-bats," he said. "Good at-bats hopefully will produce hits."
Thome was delighted to join a team in contention to make the post-season. Despite Sunday's loss, Baltimore is in second place in the AL East with a 42-36 record.
"These guys, they've had a great year," he said. "I think they've done some special things and hopefully we can continue to do that."
Thome's presence could mean a lot in a clubhouse in needed of veteran leadership.
"Not only can you contribute the days you play, but also the days you don't play. Watching the game, watching pitchers and just talking baseball," he said. "I think that's what I was fortunate to learn from in Cleveland and my years coming up. And, hopefully, if anything, as well, you might say something to somebody and it helps them. I'm always there. I think being a good teammate is being a good listener. And also being there as a teammate and a friend. Through the years, I have had some good ones that I've been able to follow."
He can still come off the bench and be effective, as evidenced by his game-ending, pinch-hit homer against Tampa Bay on June 23. It was his last hit with Philadelphia.