Charlie loves Thome

Jim Thome stretches his arms during a spring training workout in Clearwater, Fla. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Charlie Manuel sure does love Jim Thome.

I know that's not breaking news, but sometimes Manuel's affection for the power-hitting first baseman is so over the top that it becomes comical.

Such a case arose Sunday afternoon when someone asked the Phillies manager how he planned to divvy up the starts at first base while Ryan Howard recovers from foot surgery.

Manuel's answer: "First of all, we’re going to make sure Thome is ready to play. He hasn’t played in the field for quite a while, but I think he’s going to be able to play once or twice a week. I would like to see him when the season starts get enough at-bats. He’ll get 100 at-bats with pinch-hitting and maybe even more. We play eight games in interleague play on the road. More than likely, he’ll definitely get in on those games. If we can get him about 200 at-bats, I think he'll help us and I think he'll make a change in a manager’s decision at the end of a game. The intangible part of him is he brings a very positive part to our team. He’s going to be positive the way he talks about hitting. He’s going to add life to our thinking. The last two years, you look at his stats, he hit 40 home runs in the last two years. He hit 15 last year and 25 the year before that ... so if you look at his at-bat ratio to his home runs, it shows that he can still hit. If he can help us off the bench, that’s going to be huge for us, but he also is going to add some life to our team."

We never did find out how Manuel plans to divvy up those starts at first base, but he was on a roll and nobody wanted to stop him.