Posts Tagged ‘Jim Thome’

White Sox notebook, 8/5

August 5, 2011 Comments off

Ozzie hoping to see Thome blast No. 600

By Jordan Schelling /

MINNEAPOLIS — If it were up to White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, he’d get to see Jim Thome hit his 600th career home run this weekend, but in a Chicago victory at Target Field.

“To be honest with you, I hope when he hits it, it’s not to win the game, but I’d like to watch it,” Guillen said. “I don’t want that to win the game, but I don’t mind watching that.”

Guillen managed Thome when the Twins slugger was with the White Sox from 2006-09. During that time, Thome blasted his 500th career home run, which delivered a walk-off victory over the Angels.

Thome entered Friday’s game sitting just two home runs shy of becoming the eighth player in Major League history to reach the 600-home run mark. He also carried a nine-game hitting streak into the weekend, a stretch during which Thome hit two home runs and batted .424 with four doubles and seven RBIs. Thome was out of the starting lineup on Friday.

“Maybe my team wouldn’t say the same … they don’t want to give up the home run, but they would like to watch that because they love that guy here,” Guillen said. “He’s one guy I can say, whoever was on this ballclub when he was here, they will say the same stuff to you.

“If he hits it and we win, I’d like to see that.”

Walks not part of White Sox offense vs. Yanks

MINNEAPOLIS — It had been more than 40 years since the White Sox went four straight games without picking up a walk on offense until they did so this week while being swept by the Yankees in a four-game series.

The White Sox last went four games without a walk from Aug. 5-8, 1968. Since 1919, the club has never gone five straight games without a walk. Paul Konerko walked in the first inning of Friday’s game against the Twins to end the streak.

While he knows his team can be aggressive, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was surprised to learn that his team did not walk once against the Yankees. Still, he could understand how that might happen in a four-game sweep by New York.

Between the Yankees’ pitching and his team’s desire to get something going offensively to stop a losing streak, the White Sox did not take a single free pass in the series.

“Too aggressive, or a lot of strikes?” Guillen said. “When you throw strikes, you win four games. That’s exactly what it is, I always say that.”

Ozzie impressed with Humber despite loss

MINNEAPOLIS — Things have not gone Philip Humber’s way on the mound since the beginning of July, but White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen liked what he saw from him Thursday against the Yankees.

“He threw the ball great yesterday, very good,” Guillen said. “Especially with the way those guys were hitting.”

Over his last four starts, Humber has gone 0-4 with a 7.97 ERA, allowing 18 runs on 29 hits over 20 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting .341 against Humber, and have struck out just 17 times in that span.

The best of those four outings was his last, when Humber went 6 1/3 innings with four runs allowed on five hits as the White Sox lost, 7-2, to the Yankees.

And while his overall numbers for the season are still impressive, at 124 innings, Humber is reaching the point at which the White Sox will have to start paying attention to his workload.

Over the last five years, Humber has totaled just 51 1/3 innings in the Majors, while tossing no more than 139 innings during a season in the Minors.

“We’re aware [that] this guy has never thrown 140 innings in the past,” Guillen said. “Minor League innings … that’s nothing. Minor League innings compared to big league innings, I think it’s doubled, because here you’ve got to grind it out every pitch.”

Konerko in lineup, but mobility limited

MINNEAPOLIS — Since being hit by a pitch on his left calf Sunday, mobility has been an issue for Paul Konerko, who returned to the lineup Thursday after missing three games.

White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen admitted he struggled with putting him in the lineup, knowing how much discomfort Konerko was dealing with.

“Konerko is a brave man,” Guillen said. “This guy is very sore, very sore. I’m just happy to have him in the lineup, because if you see him walk around — when he got the first ground ball [Thursday], I felt guilty, because I think good managers don’t play players like that.”

Konerko was in the lineup again Friday as the designated hitter, and could remain at DH through the weekend.

“I was guilty about seeing [Konerko] running the bases, he just barely can push his foot down,” Guillen said. “He said he’s fine. Well, if he said he’s fine, he’s playing.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Tigers notebook, 7/22

July 22, 2011 Comments off

Leyland addresses Thursday’s decisions

MINNEAPOLIS — After right-hander Justin Verlander gave up a leadoff triple on Thursday in the second inning, Tigers manager Jim Leyland played the infield back with Jim Thome at the plate. But following Thome’s strikeout, Leyland moved the infield in with one out.

Leyland discussed the thought process behind the two decisions before Friday’s game.

“Well, with no outs, you don’t want to open up a big inning,” Leyland said. “If you’re playing in and he hits a ball in the hole that you didn’t get, you still got a guy on first. You’ve got one out and you still got the double play in order.

“Over my career, I’ve seen too many infields back and a routine ground ball to the shortstop allows a guy to trot home.”

The strategy did not really end up mattering for Leyland and the Tigers, as Verlander struck out both Thome and Danny Valencia, setting up a ground out to end the inning with the runner stranded at third base.

But Leyland said that he generally likes to bring the infield in with one out and a runner on third.

“Unless you’re worried about a big inning, I play them in all the time,” Leyland said. “If you got one out, I think you should be able to come out of it without a big inning.”

Leyland, Thome share jovial conversation

MINNEAPOLIS — Early on Friday afternoon, Tigers manager Jim Leyland sat out to enjoy a beautiful day at Target Field, which he called “gorgeous,” “beautiful” and a “tremendous” ballpark.

In the home dugout, Leyland spotted Jim Thome and struck up a conversation with the Twins’ slugger.

“I just happened to see him in their dugout, and I pointed to the that sign out there,” said Leyland, referring to the banner above center field that read ‘THOME 596,’ counting down his chase for 600 career home runs.

“I said, ‘I don’t want to see that go up while I’m here,’ kidding him,” Leyland said.

Thome didn’t really have a comeback for Leyland’s joke, but he said that he had a good time talking with Leyland.

“I didn’t really comment, you know?” Thome said. “What are you going to say? It was just all in fun and joking.”

With seven home runs on the year, Thome is within striking distance of becoming the eighth player in Major League history to reach the 600-home run plateau.

Leyland discussed with Thome how nice a ballpark Target Field is, and Thome pointed out to him that all five cities in the American League Central are great places to play.

Aside from the joke about Leyland not wanting to see Thome get any closer to 600 homers this weekend, neither discussed any specifics about their conversation. But both had plenty of good things to say about the other.

“Jimmy’s been around the game a long time,” Thome said. “He’s an old school manager that I think a lot of people have respect for. He’s always been very, very pleasant and very nice to me. Any time I’ve run across him, he’s always been very cordial, very polite. He’s just a good guy to talk to about baseball in general.”

Tigers manager recalls memories of Blyleven

MINNEAPOLIS — With former Twins right-hander Bert Blyleven set to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown, he was a topic of discussion on Friday when Tigers manager Jim Leyland met with reporters.

Leyland recalled his first encounter with Blyleven in 1969, when both were in the Florida League, playing for the Tigers’ and Twins’ affiliates at the Class A level.

“He was in Orlando when I was at Lakeland,” Leyland said. “I hit against him.”

So the obvious next question was, how did Leyland fare against Blyleven in the early stages of what would eventually become a Hall of Fame pitching career?

“I was probably one of the first guys who sent him on his way to Cooperstown,” Leyland said. “And I can assure you one thing, he doesn’t remember what happened, because he had no clue who I was.”

Tigers sign Draft picks Westlake, Collier

MINNEAPOLIS — The Tigers announced on Friday that they had signed third round pick Aaron Westlake and 22nd round pick Tommy Collier.

With two more players signed from the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Tigers have now agreed to terms with 28 of the club’s selections.

Westlake, a first baseman from Vanderbilt University, earned second team All-America honors from Baseball America after hitting .344 with 18 doubles, 18 home runs and 56 RBIs in 66 games this year for the Commodores.

Collier, a right-hander from San Jacinto College, was pitching with Bourne of the Cape Cod League this summer before he signed. In five starts, Collier compiled a 3-1 record with a 1.04 ERA, allowing three earned runs over 26 innings pitched with 26 strikeouts.

Thome’s mammoth blast, No. 596, lifts Twins

July 17, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — Not many people can hit a baseball farther than Jim Thome.

In the sixth inning on Sunday, he reminded everyone of that fact by crushing home run No. 596 into the second deck in right field, a blast that was measured at 490 feet.

Thome’s seventh home run of the season propelled the Twins to a 4-3 win over the Royals in the series finale.

Thome’s three-run shot topped his previous Target Field record blast of 480 feet, which hit off the flag pole beyond right field last September.

“He clocked it, I heard,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who has been battling an illness and was forced to watch the game from the clubhouse.

It was not Thome’s longest career home run — he once hit a 511-foot blast with the Indians that remains the longest in the history of Progressive Field. That home run, on July 3, 1999, also came against the Royals.

Of course, 490 feet is still a pretty impressive blast.

“Ridiculous. I stood up immediately,” Twins starter Brian Duensing said. “I knew it was gone when he hit it; I didn’t know it was going to go that far.

“That’s why it’s so fun watching him hit, because you never know when it’s going to happen. When he gets them, they’re usually big situations or very large home runs. Today was both.”

Thome crushed a 3-2 slider from Royals starter Felipe Paulino about halfway up in the second deck. It was the 596th home run of Thome’s career putting him just four shy of becoming the eighth player in Major League history to hit 600 or more career homers.

The lefty slugger hit it while still recovering from a sprained left big toe, and at age 40, health issues are the only thing keeping Thome from hitting mammoth home runs on a daily basis.

“I’m not going to win any races,” Thome joked about the status of his toe. “I never did anyway. It’s coming along good.”

Joe Nathan came on in the ninth for his second straight save in the series, the first time since Oct. 2-3, 2009, that Nathan recorded saves in consecutive games.

Nathan has made nine consecutive scoreless appearances, allowing just three hits with seven strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings of work. He sits three saves shy of tying Rick Aguilera on the Twins’ all-time list.

Thome’s blast gave the Twins just enough offense to support Duensing, who picked up his seventh win of the season. The left-hander went 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with two strikeouts.

Duensing settled in nicely after opening with three long innings, retiring 10 straight Royals hitters from the third to the second out in the sixth.

“We just said, ‘Let’s keep going at ’em,'” Duensing said. “I was a little shaky early, and I think part of that was the All-Star break. I threw bullpens when I got back, but being off the mound in a game situation that long … it took me a little while to get it going.”

After Thome handed Duensing a 4-1 lead, he surrendered a two-run blast to Jeff Francoeur in the seventh. Francoeur’s home run was his 13th of the season, a 418-foot blast to left. Duensing was taken out after facing one more batter, and the Twins’ bullpen retired the Royals in order over the final 2 2/3 innings.

Both teams scored in the first inning in similar fashion before going scoreless until the sixth. Melky Cabrera and Alexi Casilla each doubled with one out, and Alex Gordon and Joe Mauer each drove them in with singles.

With their second straight win and the fourth in five games, the Twins moved to within five games of first place in the American League Central for the first time since April 23. The Twins also are five games under .500 for the first time since they were 9-14 on April 28.

As the first-place Indians head into town on Monday for a four-game series, the Twins have a big opportunity to gain even more ground this week.

“Maybe this momentum will carry us over into the next two series,” Thome said. “You don’t win every ballgame, but the thing this time of year is you want to win series. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rays notebook, 7/4

July 4, 2011 Comments off

Final Vote candidate Zobrist gets a break 

MINNEAPOLIS — On Monday, one day after being named a candidate for the All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by Sprint, second baseman Ben Zobrist got a day off to rest.

It was Zobrist’s first day out of the lineup since May 22, and just the third time this season that he has not been on manager Joe Maddon’s lineup card.

“[He has] just a little bit of a head cold kind of thing,” Maddon said. “He could’ve played, but we talked about it and I said, ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea.’ I’ve been looking to give him a day off anyway, so this is almost perfect.”

In 83 games, Zobrist has batted .256 with a .342 on-base percentage and 27 doubles, which ties him with Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for the Major League lead.

As Zobrist rested, third baseman Evan Longoria was back in the lineup after sitting out on Sunday for the first time in nearly a month.

“These guys have been playing every day and doing a good job of it,” Maddon said. “They’ve been grinding it out well, but we’ve got to take care of them at some point. I know the break’s coming up, but I want us to finish strong in the first half, too.”

Maddon pondering post-All-Star break rotation

MINNEAPOLIS — Manager Joe Maddon has thought about the club’s first two games after the All-Star break, but he has yet to settle on who will take the mound against the Red Sox.

It could be All-Stars David Price and James Shields on an extra day of rest each, but Price’s participation in the All-Star Game could alter that plan. Shields will not pitch for the American League, so he remains likely to pitch in one of those games against Boston.

“It could switch up, but we’re still debating a couple of things,” Maddon said. “Shields is good, but [the question is] how David gets utilized.”

Maddon expects to talk with AL manager Ron Washington by the end of the week regarding Price and how Washington plans to use him.

He definitely expects the lefty to see some action against the National League.

Rays poised to witness history

MINNEAPOLIS — On their current road trip, the Rays will face two players — Jim Thome and Derek Jeter — on the verge of reaching major milestones.

As the Rays opened a series against the Twins on Monday, Thome sat just five home runs away from being the eighth player in Major League history to hit 600. And as he rejoined the Yankees on Monday after spending nearly three weeks on the disabled list, Jeter was just six hits shy of becoming the 28th member of the 3,000-hit club.

So the pregame question for manager Joe Maddon was, Which accomplishment is more impressive?

“I’d say probably 600 home runs is more difficult to achieve,” Maddon said. “If you look at the number of 3,000-hit guys, does that exceed the number of 600-home run guys? I’m going to say from that perspective, I think that would be the one way to look at it.

“But both are awesome accomplishments, and [they are] both really deserving, classy individuals. I’ve got a lot of respect for both guys.”

The other question was what Maddon thought about having either milestone come against his ballclub.

Maddon was there on Sept. 6, 1995, when Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131st consecutive game, passing Lou Gehrig for the all-time record. Then the Angels’ bench coach, Maddon saw the Orioles get a boost from Ripken’s accomplishment.

“My biggest concern with that was the momentum, or the energy about the team because of that happening,” he said. “That’s my bigger concern. It’s not the fact that he may get it against us, it’s all the complementary surrounding components that may benefit the Yankees or may benefit the Twins if that were to happen against us.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Twins notebook, 7/1

July 1, 2011 Comments off

Thome belts home run No. 594

MINNEAPOLIS — With the two injuries that have forced him to miss nearly 40 games this season, Jim Thome hasn’t even had time to think about reaching 600 home runs.

Even if his focus is just on staying healthy and contributing, the Twins slugger moved one step closer to that milestone on Friday, as Thome hit career homer No. 594, a three-run shot that just got over the fence in left field in a 6-2 win over the Brewers.

After missing so much time, Thome said it felt good to put one in the seats.

“It does, especially being on the DL and being in Florida trying to get back, and still trying to kind of get a feel here and get back going,” Thome said. “Anytime you can do something, especially the way the guys have been playing, and contribute and help out, is good, no doubt.”

Thome hit an 0-1 curveball from Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo, giving the Twins a 3-1 lead. After missing 20 games with a left quad strain, Thome homered in his fifth game back from the disabled list.

Thome last homered on May 23 against the Mariners, when he hit two balls out of the park in his first game back from a DL stint for an oblique strain.

It was Thome’s fifth home run of the season, putting him six away from being the eighth player in Major League history to hit 600. Thome would be the first to reach the mark since the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez last season.

“Everyone gets excited when Jim Thome comes up, and he crushed that ball in the seats and that’s a big huge boost for us after we got down quick in the ballgame,” said Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire. “That’s kind of what we are hoping for as we go along here. If we can keep those guys healthy, some of those things can happen.”


Young takes batting practice at Target Field

MINNEAPOLIS — For the first time since spraining his right ankle, Twins left fielder Delmon Young took batting practice on Friday at Target Field. If everything continues to go well this weekend, Young will begin a Triple-A rehab assignment next week.

Young, who left during the fifth inning at Miller Park last Saturday after being injured, took part in both early BP and the Twins’ regular pregame batting practice session, and he also ran the bases.

“He’s feeling great,” Twins head trainer Rick McWane said. “He’s going to do the same thing tomorrow, and the plan is for him to travel to Rochester on Sunday and start a rehab assignment with Rochester next week.”

McWane also gave updates on right-hander Kevin Slowey, currently on the disabled list with an abdominal injury. The 27-year-old threw 3 1/3 innings on Thursday night for the Fort Myers Miracle.

Slowey also will travel to Rochester on Sunday. He is scheduled to start Tuesday for the Red Wings, McWane said.

Twins center fielder Denard Span also continues to make progress in his recovery from a concussion sustained on June 3 in Kansas City.

“Denard came out early, did some long toss, did some running [and] had a good workout,” McWane said. “We still hope to get him on the field taking batting practice at some point, although we don’t have a date right now.”

Humphries, Kardashian take in the opener

MINNEAPOLIS — After waiting out a two-hour rain delay, former Minnesota Gophers forward Kris Humphries threw out the first pitch on Friday at Target Field.

Humphries, an all-Big Ten honoree and 2004 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, was named Minnesota Mr. Basketball as a senior at Hopkins High School in 2003. He spent the last two seasons with the New Jersey Nets, and previously played for the Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz.

Joining Humphries to watch the Twins take on the Brewers was his fiance, reality TV personality Kim Kardashian. The two were visited in their suite during the rain delay by a pair of Twins, closer Matt Capps and catcher Drew Butera.

Before the game, Kardashian tweeted: “Hi Minnesoooota! Heading to the twins game tonight! This should be fun!”

Neck surgery to extend Morneau’s stay on DL

June 24, 2011 Comments off

By Jordan Schelling /

MILWAUKEE — It will be at least mid-August before Justin Morneau is back at first base for the Twins.Morneau, who said he has not been able to feel the index finger on his left hand since the last week of Spring Training, will have neck surgery on Wednesday to relieve a pinched nerve causing the problem. The procedure will remove a herniated disk fragment from Morneau’s neck.

“When we immobilized his wrist, it was the expectation and hopes of our doctors that the time off from swinging would also benefit his neck,” Twins head trainer Rick McWane said. “Last week we sent him to see another neck specialist; this was our desire, our team doctors’ desire. It wasn’t something that Justin was pushing.

“That doctor decided that the best course of action would be to have surgery.”

McWane said it was a non-invasive procedure, but Morneau, who has been on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 10, was expected to be out at least six weeks after Wednesday’s surgery.

McWane also emphasized several times that it was the decision of the team doctors to have Morneau see a neck specialist, and that Morneau would have preferred to fight through it. After seeing the specialist, it was determined that surgery was the best option.

Morneau also had the cast put back on his left wrist to keep it immobilized, which will help that injury heal while he’s unable to do anything baseball-related due to the neck surgery.

“The thing that kind of made the decision was hearing that it could be permanent weakness in the arm, and numbness in the fingers and all that stuff,” Morneau said. “I’d like that to go away. That’s the plan for the surgery, hopefully that’ll be the result and I’ll come out good and be ready for August and September.

“That’s what I think the decision came down to, being able to play late in the year instead of trying to find a way to push through it and not feel very good. I could break down and need the surgery later in the year and have to sit out again.”

With Morneau out, Luke Hughes and Michael Cuddyer will likely split most of the time at first base until he returns. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire did suggest that a number of others could be options there as well, including catchers Rene Rivera and Joe Mauer.

“I’m trying everything,” Gardenhire said. “I’ve talked to Joe about it, I’ve talked to everybody about it. We’re not afraid to move people around and keep his bat in the lineup on a more everyday basis. Playing a little here, playing a little there.”

After returning from a concussion that cost him much of last season, Morneau has struggled through the first three months of this season, fighting through neck and wrist injuries. The result has been a .225 batting average, with four home runs and 21 RBIs through 55 games.

Morneau missed five games in early April with an injury, and has not played since June 9 due to the wrist injury that landed him on the DL. McWane said that the neck injury and the concussion were not related in any way.

It’s the latest in a number of injuries for Morneau in recent years. He missed the last few weeks of the 2009 season with a stress fracture in his back, and the second half of 2010 with the concussion suffered on July 7 at Toronto.

“It’s just sort of, trying to figure out if I’m doing something wrong, if there’s something wrong mechanically, if there’s something wrong training, whatever,” Morneau said. “I’m trying to look at everything to see if there’s anything I can do differently, or better or less or whatever it is.

“As frustrating as it is for fans to sit there and go, ‘You know, I’d like to see this guy play,’ it’s a million times more frustrating for me to have to sit here and watch it on TV and not be a part of it.”

The latest setback for Morneau comes just as the Twins were seemingly on the verge of getting their entire Opening Day lineup back healthy.

Designated hitter Jim Thome rejoined the club in Milwaukee and is expected back soon, which should help replace some of the power lost without Morneau in the lineup.

“You want them to get back as quick as they can,” Thome said. “[But] I think when you look at our season, and how our season’s gone, you’ve really got to look at our young guys and how they’ve stepped up.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.