After Jim Thome was scratched twice last week due to soreness from playing the field, I wondered if it made sense for him to play any first base at all this season. At 41, Thome’s days of playing everyday are well behind him. However, the organization has said they plan on trying him out there during Spring Training and in a perfect world, he would play there once a week, or so. But is that even the right move?
Should your best bench bat, and perhaps the only guy capable of changing a game with one swing, be subject to playing too much? I know that sounds ridiculous, but if they push Thome too far, the Phillies run the risk of losing a valuable player. His limitations are apparent; his back isn’t as sound as someone, say, 10 years younger, and his defense will be suspect. Thome’s bat is still potent, but if he plays too much during the regular season, does he run the risk of losing value because he can’t handle the rigors?
Of course, all of this is premature concern. Thome says he would like to get back out there soon after taking part in a minor league game on Saturday. He’ll need to get out there at least a few more times in March to see where he is physically.
It’s impossible to tell how much the Phillies will lose defensively when Thome is out there. It’s rather obvious that he’s not nearly on the same level as John Mayberry Jr. or Ty Wigginton. It seems inevitable that he will be some sort of liability in the infield.
If you’re a big believer that a bench guy needs starting reps on occasion, then I agree with you, to a point. But Thome doesn’t need to play three days a week to keep his bat in order. He’s a veteran wily enough to understand his body and the situation in front of him. Hopefully the Phillies realize that they’ll need to take it easy on him throughout the year to maximize his value.