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Thome's availability puts Phils in tight spot

Thome's availability puts Phils in tight spot

Thome's availability puts Phils in tight spot
PHILADELPHIA -- Jim Thome needs at-bats to be productive, but because of his bad back, at-bats will be difficult to find.

Thome injured his back Saturday. He did not play Sunday and also sat out on Monday in a 6-4 win over the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park.

Thome is currently 2-for-18, with three walks and 10 strikeouts this season. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was starting to think Thome could play at least twice a week at first base while Ryan Howard is on the disabled list, but then Saturday's injury happened.

So knowing that Thome needs at-bats to stay sharp, but he can't seem to stay healthy if he plays first base, can he be productive?

"It's going to be hard for him," Manuel said. "You never know when he might walk up there and catch one, though. You never know. When he puts a swing on a ball he's usually going to move it. That's the upside to it.

"His problem would be because of his swing. He takes a big stride. He takes a cut. He takes a hard, quick cut. You've got to get your timing. There's got to be some kind of timing. The ideal pinch-hitter usually is a short guy with a short, quick swing, and he's a singles hitter. That's the ideal, but at the same time, in the National League, you need a guy with power. A big [guy] sitting on the bench that take a swing and tie or win a game for you."

If Thome only pinch-hits, it will be difficult for him to get 100 at-bats. And it is nearly impossible to be an effective hitter over the course of six months with just 100 at-bats.

"If you get 50 to 100 at-bats over the course of a year, you ain't going to hit nothing," Manuel said. "If you hit .200 you'll be lucky. But those hits you get might win some games and tie some games up for you, which is OK."

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