Back from DL, Thome's role to be determined

Back from DL, Thome's role to be determined

PHILADELPHIA -- Jim Thome rejoined the Phillies on Wednesday after more than a month on the disabled list with a strained lower back. Now, the question centers on his role with the club going forward.

Since it's too difficult for him to take ground balls because of his back, Thome will not play in the field. The 41-year-old said he wants to help in any way he can, and that appears to be in the role of a pinch-hitting left-handed power bat off the bench.

Can Thome be an effective pinch-hitter without getting the number of at-bats that go along with a platoon role in the field?

"Well, let's face it. Pinch-hitting, you really tip your hat to guys who can pinch-hit full time," Thome said. "I don't want to sit here and say, 'Yes,' because, bottom line, pinch-hitting is a job you have to put a lot of time in. I think the key is to continue to work and do everything you can before [batting practice] during the game, to put yourself in a good position during the game. I think going down [to Clearwater, Fla.], getting healthy and getting some at-bats under my belt helped."

Asked if Thome could be an effective pinch-hitter, manager Charlie Manuel said, "I think it's worth a try."

"He'll be the first one to tell you we're in this to win," Manuel said. "He'll pull his weight. That's the best answer I can give you."

Thome, who was just 2-for-18 before going on the DL, said his back injury does not affect his hitting. He had 10 at-bats in a rehab assignment with Class A Clearwater and many more in simulated and extended spring training games.

The veteran will likely be in the lineup as a designated hitter for several games on the Phillies' upcoming road trip, where they play nine games against American League teams.

"Looking on the schedule when we were down there, that was the goal -- to get ready and put myself in a position to be back here for that," Thome said. "I am excited about that.

"I'm excited to be here. As I said in the winter, when I signed in the winter, it was a pleasure to be here and to be around these guys. I'm excited to be back with them. Florida is not a fun place in May to be in. It's better to be here."

In Wednesday night's 6-5 loss to the Dodgers, Thome pinch-hit for John Mayberry Jr. in the ninth inning with a runner on second and one out. He struck out looking.