By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS – It appears that Jim Thome is going to be back for his 21st season in the Majors.
Thome’s agent Pat Rooney told the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Thursday night that the 40-year-old slugger has “no intention of retiring” and that the Twins, in addition to some other teams, are in the mix for Thome’s services.
“We have been in contact with his agent and I’ve told him we are interested,” Twins general manager Bill Smith said on Friday morning.
After the Twins’ 2010 season ended with a loss in Game 3 of the ALDS at Yankee Stadium, Thome told reporters that he was leaning toward returning for another year but he would go home, talk to his family and see how he felt before making a decision. And now it appears he’s ready to play at least one more season, perhaps more.
Smith has made it clear all offseason that the Twins would love to have
Thome back in Minnesota for the 2011 season. The expectation is that
the Twins and Rooney will likely talk again next week at the Winter
Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Thome is coming off a very productive season with the Twins after signing a one-year, $1.5 million, incentive-laden contract last January. The veteran slugger batted .283 with 25 home runs and 59 RBIs in 108 games for Minnesota. He also had a 1.039 OPS — his highest OPS since the 2002 season when he was with Cleveland (1.122).
The Twins loved the leadership that Thome provided in the clubhouse and the impact that he delivered on the field, particularly after Justin Morneau went down with a season-ending concussion on July 7. Thome has also expressed how much he enjoyed his time in Minnesota.
Currently, Thome sits eighth on the all-time home run list with 589 home runs and the Twins would love to see him pursue the 600 home run mark while wearing a Twins uniform. But with other teams in the mix and Thome coming off such a strong season, it remains to be seen if he’ll be playing in Minnesota next season.
So would the Twins pursue another big bat if Thome does end up signing elsewhere?
Smith has said that the club’s two primary goals this winter are addressing the middle infield and the bullpen. Last winter, the Twins were vocal about their desire to improve the depth on their bench and they did so by signing Thome. Now it’s a little more unclear if they’d search for another big bat if Thome doesn’t return.
“As we go though the winter, we’ll be looking to put the best team on the field possible,” Smith said. “We’ve got to solidify our middle infield and our bullpen because that is where we have the most players coming off the roster. So we have to fill those holes first and other than that, the rest is hypothetical. We’ll see what happens with Jim Thome and move forward.”
By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS — Designated hitter Jim Thome has been scratched from the Twins lineup tonight.
No reason has been given yet for the lineup change.
Left fielder Delmon Young has been moved up to sixth in the batting order. Jose Morales will take Thome’s spot as the DH and will bat seventh.
By: Kelly Thesier/MLB.com
As Friday’s reporting date for position players draws closer, the clubhouse inside Hammond Stadium is slowly starting to fill up.
Among the notable names arriving at camp on Tuesday were Jim Thome, Jason Kubel, and Nick Punto. There was also another familiar face when Jacque Jones arrived, taking over the locker stall that Torii Hunter occupied for many years. Some other prospects have also unpacked stuff into their lockers including third baseman Danny Valencia and 2006 first-round pick Chris Parmelee.
Position players take part in their own informal workouts on the back fields of the Minor League complex during the early days of camp. Every year the hitters are behind the pitchers early in Spring Training, which always makes for some entertainment when live batting practice starts. And the pitchers enjoy getting to rag on the position players a little about it as well.
So it was no surprise to hear this exchange in the clubhouse today between Thome and reliever Jon Rauch as the veteran slugger was putting some bats back in his locker.
Rauch: “Just like riding a bike?”
Thome: “Some years. [laughs] But not this early.”
Joe Mauer even joked about getting his swing back. As the catcher grabbed a couple of bats to take part in catcher’s batting practice on Tuesday morning, he said, “We’ll see if I can still remember how to do this.”
Just a guess, but I think the three-time AL batting champion will be OK.
Here are a few other notes and tidbits from Day 2 of camp.
— Prospect Estarlin De Los Santos hasn’t arrived at camp yet but manager Ron Gardenhire said that he’s heard the shortstop is battling a little tendinitis in his shoulder. The club will know more once he reports but Gardenhire said the infield is already starting to get thin, and position players aren’t even officially in camp yet.
–Since pitchers are still just throwing bullpens, it’s difficult for the coaches to get much of a sense of how they’re doing. But the questions about Francisco Liriano are already starting due to his strong performance in winter ball. Gardenhire had this to say about Liriano today.
“He looks good,
his body is in great shape,” the manager said. “It’s just going to get down to how we go through Spring Training, facing hitters and all that stuff. Really, he’s past this
point [of bullpens], he’s pitched all winter long. This is kind of something that he’s not
here to get in shape like everyone else because he played all winter. It’s just
about getting through it now, getting in games and continuing where he left off
during the winter for him.”
–A common sight during the first two days of camp has been a herd of fans moving around the Lee County Sports Complex whenever Mauer switches fields. The catcher has always been a big attraction at camp but this year the crowds seem to be even more interested in the reigning AL MVP.
— The Twins are also expected to officially announce on Wednesday that the first game at Target Field will be a contest between the University of Minnesota and Louisiana Tech on March 27. More details will be unveiled in a press conference at Target Field. Hall of Famer and former Twin Paul Molitor will be on hand for the announcement.
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The A’s announced today that they had claimed infielder Steve Tolleson off waivers from the Twins.
Twins general manager Bill Smith confirmed Monday that the club put Tolleson on waivers to make room on the 40-man roster for Jim Thome but he said that there wouldn’t be any other news to announce just yet. The Twins are waiting to finalize Thome’s one-year, $1.5 million contract, which includes incentives, until they get all of the results from his physical this weekend, although there is not expected to be any problems.
Tolleson, 26, batted a combined .266 with 27 doubles, eight home runs and 40 RBIs between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester last year.He was a fifth round pick of the Twins in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
“We’re sorry to lose him,” Smith said. “But it’s a good opportunity for him to stay on a Major League roster.”
The Twins have agreed to a one-year, incentive-laden deal with Jim Thome, a person familiar with the negotiations said on Tuesday.
The deal is worth $1.5 million and includes up to $750,000 in incentives.
Thome, 39, currently sits at 564 career home runs, five shy of Rafael Palmeiro for 11th place on the all-time list, and while he’s entering the twilight of his career, he has continued to put up strong numbers. The slugger batted .249 with 23 home runs and 74 RBIs in 107 games with the White Sox before being dealt to the Dodgers in late August.
The Twins pursued Thome to help bolster their bench, which had been lacking a veteran hitting presence. It’s not exactly a perfect match as Thome can no longer play the field and Minnesota currently has a left-handed designated hitter in Jason Kubel. But Thome will give the team a quality pinch-hitting threat late in games and Kubel can play the outfield, so there could also be some opportunities for Thome to get some at-bats in the DH spot as well.