Jim Thome on the verge of rejoining Orioles

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Jim Thome continues to make progress in his recovery from a herniated disk in his neck and could be back in the Orioles’ lineup within a week, according to manager Buck Showalter.

Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that Thome took a handful of at-bats in a simulated game yesterday “and experienced no pain.” He’ll take more at-bats in simulated and instructional league games today and tomorrow, at which point the 40-year-old designated hitter could be cleared to return.

At the very least Thome would give the Orioles a nice late-inning option off the bench, but with Nick Markakis and Wilson Betemit both injured Showalter could also turn to him as the regular DH to add some left-handed pop to the lineup.

Kyle Schwarber is “probably, arguably” in The Best Shape of His Life

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Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.

Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.

To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.