Inside Pitch: No Ignoring Thome's Numbers

It's a topic that the Phillies wished wouldn't come up for discussion. But Jim Thome has been a bit difficult to ignore. Thome was sent to the White Sox along with $22 million for center fielder Aaron Rowand and two minor league pitchers this winter because there wasn't enough room at first base for both Thome and Ryan Howard. What Thome is doing in Chicago is impossible to ignore.

Right now there isn't a better first baseman in baseball than Jim Thome - who actually is serving as the White Sox' designated hitter. On Thursday afternoon against the Tigers, Thome homered in his fourth straight game, giving him six homers and 10 RBIs in nine games. On Friday, Thome went 0-for-3, but is still hitting .344 on the season.

Howard, meanwhile, has just one homer and one RBI through nine games.

Obviously the elbow problems that hindered, then curtailed Thome's 2005 season were solved by surgery.

Thome's big start for the Sox was the motivation for this question to be posed to Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel: Was there any way both Thome and Howard could have played for the Phillies?

"It would have been hard," Manuel said. "I look at Ryan as a first baseman. He probably could go to the outfield and play some and be adequate - maybe."

According to Manuel, Howard's best hope would have been staying on the same side of the field and playing in right field. Although Thome was a third baseman when he arrived in the majors, it has been eight years since he played the position regularly and his body has filled out since then - and that's before you consider his surgically repaired elbow.

"I thought about ways I could work both of them in," Manuel said of the time before the trade. "(But) Thome's gone. There's not a whole lot you can do about it. I think Jimmy's very determined to show people he can still play."

RECAP: The Phillies finally can lay claim to a winning streak after taking their second straight from the Braves, 7-6 Thursday and then beating Colorado 10-8 on Friday. On Thursday, the offense gave starting pitcher Gavin Floyd plenty of support with five runs on three first-inning home runs. Jimmy Rollins, Bobby Abreu and Chase Utley all went deep in the first. Floyd then put out a quality start, allowing three runs over six innings.

Friday night, the homerun barrage continued with Chase Utley hitting two more homeruns - one of them a grand slam - and Aaron Rowand and Pat Burrell joining Utley in the homerun department.

However, both nights, the bullpen almost lost the game for the Phillies. Thursday's 7-3 lead was whittled to one when Ryan Franklin, pitching for the fourth time in five days, allowed three runs in the eighth. It created a tough save situation for Tom Gordon, who managed to leave the potential tying run stranded in scoring position to earn his second save in as many days. Then Friday night, Julio Santana breezed through the eighth inning and quickly loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth, only to have them cleared on a Matt Holliday double, making it a 10-7 game. Arthur Rhodes came on and struck out Brad Hawpe and for the third night in a row, Tom Gordon came on in a save opportunity. Gordon gave up an RBI single, but Jason Smith, who pinch-hit and drew a walk, was thrown out trying to advance to third on the play, ending the game.

NOTES, QUOTES

  • 2B Chase Utley broke a 1-for-19 slump in impressive fashion with two homers, a sacrifice fly and four RBI Thursday and added two more homeruns and five RBI Friday. "It's good to find the barrel of the bat again," said Utley, who lifted his average from the Mendoza Line to .282.
  • Jimmy Rollins extended his latest hitting streak to six games with the 14th leadoff homer of his career on Thursday, tying him with Juan Samuel for the team record. Rollins also doubled and raised his average to .395. Ironically, as the Phillies banged out 16 hits Friday night in Colorado, Rollins took an 0-for-6.
  • Gavin Floyd took a different attitude to the mound in his second start of the season, aggressively using his fastball to set up his biting curve. The results were six innings, three earned runs (one of which could be strongly debated as unearned) and his first win of the season. "It feels better to let loose and let it go," Floyd said. "I wasn't holding back."
  • Ryan Franklin struggled in his fourth appearance in five days. Franklin gave up three runs in the eighth inning to the Braves on Thursday, nearly blowing a 7-3 lead. "I think Franklin's rubber arm got a little rubbery there," manager Charlie Manuel said.
  • David Dellucci hasn't responded well to returning to a reserve role. He struck out in a pinch-hit appearance Thursday and is 1-for-11 with five strikeouts with the Phillies.

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