CLEARWATER, Fla. – If you’ve been waiting to see Jim Thome play first base, tune into the Phillies’ televised game Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles.
After a couple weeks of reacquainting himself with the position during minor-league games at the Carpenter Complex, Thome will make his first Grapefruit League appearance in the Phillies' split-squad game with Baltimore at Bright House Field.
“I’m ready for the big show,” Thome said. “I feel good.”
How Thome's body feels after playing first base is as important as how he does playing the position because he has logged just 28 innings there since leaving the Phillies in 2005. The big test is how his aging back handles the stress of being in the field. After initially feeling sore and backing off from playing in games, Thome said his body has responded well. In his last minor-league game, he played seven innings.
“I’ve been pretty good,” he said. “I have no complaints physically at all. But we have a lot more work to do. I don’t want to sit here and say we’ve accomplished everything we want to accomplish. I don’t approach baseball that way after playing 20 years. The mentality is there is always the long-haul process and if you continue to do your work, all that will align itself the way it is supposed to.”
Thome, 41, admitted it has been a challenge playing first base again.
“I don’t think it’s like riding a bike,” he said. “I shouldn’t say I don’t feel comfortable. I’m getting more comfortable the more I go out there. It comes with doing the work, doing the little things that for six years I kind of lost. Not that I lost them, but I had not done it. Those are things I need to get back. I need to get that feel back.”
The next step comes Sunday in a big-league game, where things move faster and the scrutiny intensifies.
“It will be exciting and it will be fun,” Thome said. “It’s just the next progression in what we’re trying to do.”
In other news, third baseman Placido Polanco is scheduled to play in a minor-league game Saturday morning. It will be his first game action since suffering an injury to his left ring finger in a March 17 game against Toronto. Polanco is scheduled to return to the big-league lineup Sunday against the Orioles.