Thome tests back in field again

Jim Thome's best weapon is his bat, but to get his at-bats he'll need to play the field. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- As the sellout crowd at Bright House Field cheered a leadoff home run by Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins Saturday, Jim Thome went through the task of testing his aging back for the second time this spring in a sparsely attended minor-league game at the Carpenter Complex.

Thome, after being too sore to play Thursday and Friday, gave a positive report after his four-inning stint with the Phillies' triple-A team.

"After playing (Monday), I definitely felt a little bit of soreness the next day," Thome said. "Today was much, much better. My plan is to talk to (manager) Charlie (Manuel) and maybe comeback tomorrow, depending on what he has planned for me. Obviously we have to see how I feel tomorrow, but my plan is to come back and play tomorrow and see how my body feels from that stage."

Thome, 41, had five putouts during his four innings and was 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a sharply hit grounder to second base. His most taxing play by far came in his final inning when he couldn't handle a throw from third baseman Jeremy Barnes that reached the bag at the same time as the baserunner.

There were runners at first-and-third with nobody out on the play. Thome managed to pick up the ball and force a rundown play that required him to navigate the entire infield diamond before the runner originally on third base was tagged out.

"That stuff doesn’t bother me at all," Thome said. "The big test for me is always going to be the bending forward and getting my body used to that motion again."

Thome said he had been experiencing "general soreness" after playing in the field for the first time Monday.

"It's just the bending over that I haven't done in five or six years," he said. "Doing it pitch after pitch, my body has to get used to the motions of defense again. It's coming along. Even if I was a little bit sore today I was going to push it anyway just because I need to push my body.

"This is a part of my game now after five or six years of not doing this and I need to know what’s soreness and what’s not. I have to be smart about it, too. The long haul is to get me ready for however many days Charlie wants to put me there. I’m trying to be good about it and get myself ready."

How often does Thome think he'll be able to play during Ryan Howard's extended absence?

"Again, I’m not a prediction guy," he said. "I’d like to play every day, but I understand where I’m at and I understand my body and where it’s at right now. I think the player never loses his heart, though. You never lose the desire and the heart to want to play and be out there. Again, Charlie is the boss. He is ultimately the guy who is going to have to determine in his mind how much he’s going to want me to play and it’s up to me as the player to get ready for that."