MLB

Thome ready to play if he gets a call

Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Jim Thome (25)
Jim Thome has spent the offseason staying in shape.
Share This Story

Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

MORE>>
 
   
 

Know this about Jim Thome: If he is forced into retirement, he is not going to be bitter, and he is not going to complain.

CACTUS LEAGUE

Get news, video, schedules and more from spring training in Arizona.

Thome, though, does not want to retire.

In fact, he is heading to Phoenix early next week to continue his training at Fischer Sports, a physical therapy and conditioning center.

“My plan is to kind of stay in shape and see what happens,” Thome said in a telephone interview Friday. “If a team calls for me, mentally, I want to know I’m ready to go.”

And if no team calls, and Thome, 42, cannot go out on his terms? Then he will leave the game just as he played it for the past 22 years.

With grace.

“I said this to my wife: There is never a happy ending,” Thome said. “You can’t script it. You can’t look in the mirror and go, ‘I want to go out like Ray Lewis did. Or John Elway.’ You can’t script the perfect ending.

All-time MLB home run list

DINGER KINGS

Check out where the greats rank on the all-time home run list.

“But how can you not be proud of the 20-something years before this? To play until you’re 42? I’ve been playing since the age of 8-9-10. How could I look in the mirror and tell someone, ‘I got a bad shake?’ Never. I would never do that. You treat the game with respect.”

Thome, an almost-certain Hall of Famer, ranks seventh all-time with 612 career homers. He is 19th all-time with a .956 OPS. And he remained a force with Baltimore and Philadelphia last season, hitting a combined eight homers in 186 at-bats and producing a .786 OPS.

Why, then, is he still unemployed?

His role, for one thing: Thome is strictly a designated hitter and pinch-hitter at this stage of his career. He also said that he does not want to accept a minor-league contract and non-guaranteed roster spot; the Cleveland Indians, one of his previous clubs, were among the teams that were unwilling to give him a major-league deal.

“For me, what I’ve done in the game, I felt really strongly about that,” Thome said. “I still love the game. I want to keep playing. But I felt after 20-something years, that if I went back and played, I wanted to get an opportunity to make a club at the major-league level. To me, that was important. I feel I’m still a major-league player. I’m in great shape.”

HEY, SLUGGER

These specialists have a knack for hard knocks. Who are the all-time best designated hitters?

Thome isn’t the only player of his kind who is still looking for work — Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon and Carlos Lee also remain free agents. But Buck Showalter, Thome’s manager with the Orioles last season, said, “I still think he’s a threat.” Paul Konerko, Thome’s former teammate with the Chicago White Sox, agreed.

“He’s always going to be one of those guys — I don’t care if it’s 10 years from now — who is going to be able to come off his couch and be dangerous in the box,” Konerko said. “He’ll have a chance to draw a walk, be a tough at-bat. He’s that good.”

Konerko added that he has never been around a player who enjoyed preparation as much as Thome, saying, “This whole offseason, I know he was working out in Illinois like a madman.”

Thome, though, acknowledged that the most difficult part of his current training is that he is on his own, unaffiliated with any club, unable to play in games.

He knows this could be the end. He just isn’t ready to say goodbye.

“If I didn’t feel I could still play, trust me, at 42 I would just go home. I would just coach my son, be with my kids (Lila, 10, and Landon, 5). But my love and passion for the game, I don’t think that ever stops.

“Baseball has been my life. At some point, I understand there is a next chapter, a next phase, whenever that is. I have a timetable in my mind if something doesn’t happen, where I would probably say, ‘That’s it.’ I’m just not there yet. I’m not there mentally.

“If a team is in need of my services and that situation arises, I just want them to know that I am available.

“I am still ready to go,” Jim Thome said.

Tagged: Orioles, White Sox, Paul Konerko, Jim Thome

More Stories From Ken Rosenthal

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by



MLB Videos

Bautista talks Derek Jeter's final All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Jose Bautista discusses Derek Jeter's career and his final appearance in the MLB...

Jeter honored to play in last All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Derek Jeter compares his first All-Star Game experience with his last, Mike Trou...

Matheny defends Wainwright: He's out there to compete Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Mike Matheny comments on the media's reaction to Adam Wainwright's joke about le...

SimLeague Baseball - Simulation Baseball Game

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Yankees/browse/featuredproduct/606363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_606000/ff_606363_xl.jpg&w=100 27.95 Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash
    Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/1064043/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1064000/ff_1064043_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Gray http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067359/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067359_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room Pullover Hoodie - Steel http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067382/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067382_xl.jpg&w=100 54.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room 39THIRTY Flex Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067785/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067785_xl.jpg&w=100 31.95 New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Ro..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068294/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068294_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Bl..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice Performance Jersey - Black/Orange http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068787/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068787_xl.jpg&w=100 94.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice P..