NEW YORK - Whether 42-year-old future Hall of Famer Jim Thome is in today's Game 5 lineup for the Orioles or sitting on their bench - well, he'd be doing it either way, since he's the designated hitter - he will continue to appreciate the contributions of 20-year-old rookie third baseman Manny Machado.
Machado is 2-for-14 in the American League Division Series, but he's homered, doubled and scored the decisive run in last night's 2-1 13-inning thriller over the Yankees. He also made another eye-opening play in the field last night, showing off that cannon arm from behind the bag.
"It's really, really cool to see," Thome said. "I think the great thing has been to see the young guys come up and experience not only postseason, but (in) the first three months of their season. And to get this opportunity, it will build their careers as they go forward. And it's kind of cool as a veteran to see it and watch it for sure."
Asked if this is some of most fun he's had playing, Thome replied, "It is. I've had a lot of fun in my career. But, yes, to answer your question, absolutely. This is why you go to spring training. You work hard, you go through the long grind of the season to put yourself in a position for (today). And it should be a great night. This whole series has been great. That's why you play a full series. You don't get down, you stay positive and we've done that. And we'll see where we're at."
We'll see where Thome is assigned later today. He's usually been out of the lineup against left-handers, but not necessarily in the playoffs. He's 1-for-12 in the Division Series, and his infield hit last night should have been ruled an error on shortstop Jayson Nix.
Thome is 4-for-31 lifetime against CC Sabathia, but all four hits are home runs. He's also struck out 15 times.
Lew Ford, the right-handed DH option, is 11-for-43 with a double, triple, two home runs and 11 strikeouts.
I booked my flight to Detroit this morning, not to jinx - don't even go there - but because it's necessary to plan ahead. And for sportswriters, one day ahead is extremely short notice.
I'd be flying out of Newark, which would be a first.
It would be appropriate in a season filled with firsts.