There’s a statue of Jim Thome being built outside the Indians’ ballpark, but the 42-year-old slugger is still trying to avoid retirement despite an apparent lack of interest from all 30 teams.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is one of Thome’s closest friends and told Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
He still thinks he can play. He misses the game. Baseball is his identity. That’s all he’s done for 20-some years or so. He’s kind of having a hard time adjusting.
Based on his performance last season Thome could still add some value to a team as a part-time designated hitter and bench bat, but roster spots for that type of role are awfully limited and he’s been unsuccessfully looking for a gig for months now. Part of the problem is that Thome reportedly wants a big-league contract rather than working his way back to the majors on a minor-league deal, but whatever the case there’s been essentially zero rumblings of him drawing interest.
Per The Athletic’s Matt Gelb, Phillies starter Zack Wheeler will miss at least two starts when his wife goes into labor and gives birth to their first child, expected to be later this month. Wheeler, in fact, is not sure if he will return to play at all once their child is born.
Wheeler said, “We just have to see how things are here at the field and at the stadium. I’m happy with what I see so far. But things could change, especially once our baby’s born. I always think about what’s going on around me. Is it safe? Is it OK? Literally every single day. I have to just ask myself that. I’m going to continue to keep asking myself that every day.”
Wheeler, 30, inked a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies in December. He is slated for the No. 2 spot in the rotation behind Aaron Nola. Last season, with the Mets, Wheeler posted a 3.96 ERA with 195 strikeouts and 50 walks over 195 1/3 innings.
The No. 5 spot in the Phillies’ rotation is currently up for grabs between Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Ranger Suárez, and prospect Spencer Howard. One of the remaining three could fill in for Wheeler when he needs time off, temporarily or otherwise.