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  • Thome Intent on Silencing Doubters

    Thome intent on silencing doubters
    Slugger wants many at-bats this spring to keep himself on track
    By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
    http://chicago.whitesox.mlb.com/NASA...=.jsp&c_id=cws


    Jim Thome gets some stretching in at the White Sox spring facility Thursday. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)


    TUCSON -- Fans missing the early innings of Cactus League action usually give up a chance to see veteran players getting in their Spring Training at-bats.

    It's a fact holding especially true with the defending World Series champion White Sox, as manager Ozzie Guillen has his more seasoned players in and out as soon as their work has been completed. But Jim Thome could soon stand as the exception to that rule during the upcoming month of games in Arizona, beginning March 1.

    Thome, who received special clearance to report early with White Sox pitchers and catchers, maintained an offseason target of being healthy and ready for Opening Day after missing most of the 2005 campaign with right elbow and back problems. But for Thome to be prepared for that Sunday night contest at home against Cleveland on April 2, he needs to regain his offensive sharpness over the next six weeks.

    That present need could lead to a few more trips to the plate at Tucson Electric Park for Thome, who declared himself to be feeling great one month into his full rehabilitation program.

    "I will sit down with Ozzie and [athletic trainer] Herm [Schneider] and figure that out," said Thome, sitting in front of his locker stall in the White Sox clubhouse of the Kino Sports Complex on Thursday, one day before pitchers and catchers officially report.

    "The thing for me is I missed half the year, and I need some at-bats," Thome added. "We all will sit down and figure out a good game plan to keep me on track."

    Chicago's newest designated hitter played in only 59 games for the Phillies during the 2005 campaign, finishing with a career-low .207 average, seven home runs and 30 RBIs. It was a complete aberration among Thome's prolific 15-year resume, as he had previously never put up less than 25 home runs or 73 RBIs in a season with at least 400 plate appearances.

    Yet, questions still arose off of that one rough season in regard to Thome's remaining productive years. There were even unfounded whispers of steroid usage by the burly left-hander, who had four straight seasons with at least 40 home runs prior to the past year full of injuries.

    These verbal and written challenges could have been taken as a high insult by a player who is considered to be one of the classiest in the game. Instead, Thome chooses to stay focused on his own beliefs, keeping that pure excitement for the game near and dear to his heart as another season begins.

    "I can't control what people think. I only control what I do, how I believe and what I stand for -- not to mention what I've done in the game," said Thome, in a direct response to his public doubters. "That is life in general.

    "The White Sox thought very highly of me to bring me here and give me an opportunity to come over here and help them try to achieve this thing again. I take a lot of pride as a player in that and really feel blessed.

    "I've learned in this game that you are going to hear negativity, and you are going to hear positive things," Thome added. "Last year was unfortunate for me in that I've been blessed to play the game a long time and not be injured. The one time it did happen, there will be speculation because it is what it is. You can't hide that."

    There's no hiding Thome's enthusiasm to not only get back into action but get back into action for a baseball team located just three hours from his hometown in Peoria. He spoke Thursday of how being around the White Sox at SoxFest in late January gave him a sense of a group with new egos, a group that truly supports each other and a group immediately accepting him as one of its own.

    In both 1995 and 1997, Thome was part of the World Series with Cleveland. In 1997, he came as close to winning a title as a losing team possibly could, with the Indians holding a lead over Florida in the ninth inning of Game 7.

    Winning that championship drives Thome. Just being back as an active part of baseball, though, has that Spring Training fever at a high level even for a player who has witnessed close to two decades worth of February baseball.

    "The thing these guys have that I can maybe learn from them is that experience of being there last year and having what it took to win the championship," Thome said. "My goal is to stay positive and to stay on that field. If I can do that, the rest will take care of itself."

    Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

  • #2
    The 1-2 punch of Konerko and Thome is gonna be awesome. I can't wait to get this season started!
    Grinder Rule #45...Respect the past, people who are shoeless, and anyone named Joe.

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    • #3
      I can't wait for this lineup to jell.

      Welcome back Southsider.

      2006 is going to be fun.

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