PHILADELPHIA -- Jim Thome won’t be making his return to the Phillies’ lineup tonight as originally planned. The Phillies announced that Thome is going to spend at least another day in Clearwater, Fla., putting his lower back to the test and trying to shake off the rust that has accrued with three weeks of inactivity.
Thome went 2-for-5 with a sacrifice fly in an extended spring-training game Thursday. However, after having to do little base running in his first game action Wednesday, Thome had a busy day on the bases and didn’t think he was quite ready for big-league action.
"He called me directly during the game and told me that he didn’t have any discomfort or pain," general manager Ed Wade said of Thome. "But he did say that he felt stiff running the bases, but that he thought it was baseball stiffness."
Wade added that Thome’s ability to come off the disabled list would be evaluated daily. That means it wouldn’t be a shock to see Thome in Baltimore Saturday or Sunday.
"Dr. (Robert) Watkins said three weeks, which takes it to Saturday," said Wade, referring to the back specialist Thome visited in Los Angeles, "but we knew that wasn’t set in stone, that it might be three days sooner, three days later or more."
If Thome doesn’t make it back for a game against the Orioles, then his return will have to come playing first base and not as the Phils’ designated hitter in an interleague series.
"It probably would be an easier transition to play D.H.," Wade said, "but we’re going to move at a pace where he comes back when he’s ready."
Although Thome’s teammates were anticipating his return, the sentiment was that the Phillies need him to return with a clean bill of health.
"What he needs to do is take his time," Brett Myers said of Thome. "We’re going to need him in the long run when we’re in the running for that No. 1 spot (in the standings)."
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Billy Wagner is a little irritated about the runs he has allowed of late.
The issue for Wagner isn’t so much about the runs themselves -- he has blown just one save this season, May 6 in Chicago, and the Phillies still went on to win that game -- it’s the way they have been scored.
Wagner gave up two runs in the ninth inning of Sunday’s 4-3 win over the Reds, the second of which crossed the plate because Felipe Lopez advanced from second to third with one out on a Wagner pitch. Ken Griffey Jr. hit a sacrifice fly to score Lopez before Wagner got the final out for the save.
After giving up a run in the ninth inning on a David Eckstein home run during Tuesday’s 7-5 victory, Wagner was touched again in the final inning of Thursday’s 7-4 win. His indifference when Reggie Sanders went from second to third uncontested with one out led to an RBI groundout -- and this appearance didn’t even come with a save.
Wagner also is annoyed that some of the trouble he has encountered has come against his slider. Although the slider has been an effective pitch for him much of the season, the slap-hitting Eckstein turned on that pitch for his first homer of the season. Sanders was 0-for-15 with nine strikeouts against Wagner for his career when he laced the southpaw’s slider for a double Thursday.
"I’m done with that pitch," Wagner said. "I’m so annoyed."
As for the runners taking the extra base against him when they don’t represent the tying or go-ahead run, Wagner said he might try to step off the rubber and catch a runner cheating in that situation next time.
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NOTES: Placido Polanco wasn’t benched for the St. Louis series. The infielder developed a case of "pink eye" Monday and was still having problems with his vision Thursday. Polanco said that the eye is improving and that there’s a good chance he’ll be able to play tonight. ..It was "test time" at the ballpark when two nurses arrived in the clubhouse in the morning with a full cadre of urine cups in tow. No word on whether it was the drug tests were for the entire team or for randomly selected players. ..Kenny Lofton will come off the disabled list today and could be the D.H. now that Thome is scratched.
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