Just when I’m convinced that I’ve kept up with all the firsts with the Orioles this year, I stumble across another one.
Answer below. No fair looking it up or scrolling down.
While I’m focusing on Thome, I’ll mention again that the Orioles don’t know whether he wants to continue playing in 2013. That’s because Thome doesn’t know whether he wants to continue playing in 2013.
It’s probably his call.
Asked Saturday if he had any indication that Thome wanted to return, executive vice president Dan Duquette replied, “I didn’t have a chance to talk to Jim Thome, but he did a nice job for us and I really appreciate him working hard to come back and contribute to the team as a role model, a patient hitter, as a professional player. I thought he added a real veteran presence to our clubhouse and to our lineup.”
Without question, Thome provided leadership and valuable postseason experience. The guy is an expert at champagne celebrations, as evidenced by his goggles.
Seriously, manager Buck Showalter loved having him around. Thome would make daily visits to his office, pulling up a chair and talking baseball. And he worked hard to return from a herniated disc in his neck. Ever try playing baseball with one? Ever try bending over and picking up your morning newspaper with one?
Thome was limited to 28 games with the Orioles, batting .257/.348/.396 with three homers and 10 RBIs, and often sitting against left-handed starters. He was 2-for-15 with no RBIs and five strikeouts in the postseason.
After Game 5 of the Division Series, Thome was asked whether he’d like to come back in 2013.
“Yeah, you know. I’m going to go home. I’m going to go home,” he said. “I always talk about it, you know? I’m not worrying about next year. This is a tough loss. Me, you know, I’ve been able to do this a long time and felt very blessed to do it for a long time, so I’ve always said you’ve got to have teams call. You’ve got to have teams that want you. Right now, you know, this is a little tough because you wanted to keep going. You really did. You wanted to keep going.”
So, what if the Orioles called him?
“We’ll get into that if that happens,” Thome said. “We’ll get into that.”
Would it be wise for the Orioles to make that call? Well, that depends on how they envision the designated hitter slot. They could try some sort of platoon with Thome and a right-handed hitter - Nolan Reimold, perhaps, if he’s healthy and not the everyday left fielder - but what happens to Chris Davis? Nick Markakis will reclaim the starting job in right field, and first base won’t be open if the Orioles hold onto Mark Reynolds, who’s superior defensively. Left field is only a possibility if the Orioles don’t re-sign Nate McLouth, hand the job to Reimold or bring in someone from the outside.
There’s also Wilson Betemit, who has another year and a vesting option remaining on his contract. He only produces from the left side and he’s a liability in the field. If anyone should be part of a DH platoon, it’s him.
At this point, and plenty can happen to the roster between now and the first day of spring training, it’s difficult to envision how Thome would fit with Davis likely needing to get his at-bats as the DH and Betemit also in the fold (if not the field.)
Now, about that earlier trivia question, Tim Raines Sr. was 42 years, 19 days old when he homered off the Red Sox’s Tim Wakefield on Oct. 5, 2001.