BALTIMORE – Jim Thome showed up in Baltimore at 11:30 in the morning Sunday after traveling from Miami and was thrust right into the lineup as the designated hitter by manager Buck Showalter.
Acquired in a trade with the Phillies on Saturday for two minor leaguers, the 41- year-old was hoping to make an immediate impact on a lineup that needs a boost because of injuries and a pitching staff that has given up far too many runs in the last two weeks.
Thome went 0-for-4 in his Orioles debut with two strikeouts dropping his average to .227. During interleague play for the Phillies, he hit .333 with four homers and 14 RBI in nine games.
In fact, his last hit with the Phillies was a walkoff home run against Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jake McGee on June 23. However, it is what he has done in Camden Yards throughout his career that is appealing to him and the Orioles.
Coming into Sunday’s game, Thome had hit 18 homers in 246 career at bats in 67 games at the Yard (one every 13.6 at bats) with 45 runs 45 RBI.
“Competing against these guys for years, it’s a very good park to hit in,” Thome said. “But ultimately, you also have to go out there and have good at-bats and hopefully having good at- bats will produce hits.”
“I think everyone knows that when the weather gets warm here, the ball carries well. And again, you have to go out and have consistent at-bats and that’s what I’ll try and do,” he says.
Thome has seen the Orioles play good baseball for most of this season and he hopes being back in the American League, where he can be exclusively a DH, will be to his benefit.
“When interleague happened and I was able to get some consistent at-bats, it kind of made me realize how much I did love the game and how much I did want to play and get those at bats every day,” he said.
No matter how long Thome is an Oriole, whether it’s just for a month or until the end of the season, his veteran presence could be invaluable as General Manager Dan Duquette and Showalter continue to try to instill a winning formula and attitude.
“It means a lot,” Thome said. “I was fortunate early in my career in Cleveland to learn from the likes of Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield, kind of watching them as their careers were winding down. Not only can you contribute on the days that you play but also on the days that you don’t play.”
“Watching the game, watching pitchers and just talking baseball, that’s what I was fortunate to learn in Cleveland and through my years coming up and hopefully, if you say something you are lucky enough to maybe help someone out,” he said.
“I’m always there and I think being a good teammate is being a good listener and being there as a teammate and a friend and through the years I think I have had some good ones I’ve been able to follow,” Thome said.
There is a very good likelihood that five years from the day he retires, Thome will walk right into Cooperstown. He is tied for seventh all-time with Sammy Sosa with 609 home runs and 25th all-time in RBI’s with 1,698, yet, he doesn’t quite know yet when he will hang up the cleats.
“I know my career is winding down, I do. I’ll be 42 years old. I haven’t really put too much thought into it because we are in the grind of the season and I think that will all be determined when you get done playing this year. I always sit down with my family and ask them because I think that their decision is a big decision as well,” Thome said.
“I know I’m getting towards the end and that’s why I think this is a neat situation for me. It gives me a chance to play a little bit and also be on a very good team,” he said.
After going 3-6 on the just-concluded homestand and losing eight of their last 11, the Orioles need to make sure Thome has something to play for in the second half of the season.