George Christian Pappas, ESPN Radio
Monday was one of my favorite days of the calendar year, as the first full day of pitchers and catchers were in the books. For the next month and a half, I’ll chronicle spring action with a daily report from a different camp. Since I’m writing from the Sunshine State, I’ll start the rotation with the Grapefruit League.
Growing up in Clearwater, I could always tell when teams reported for the start of camp. I would spot the Phillies in their red jerseys, matching caps and gray pants and watch the players stretching, running, playing catch, hitting in cages and participating in drills on the fields at Carpenter Complex adjacent to U.S. Highway 19.
The Phillies had some new faces in camp Monday, including closer Jonathan Papelbon and outfielder Juan Pierre.
Jim Thome reported to the facilities early and loomed over the cages next to his mentor, former coach and old friend, Charlie Manuel, watching hitters cycle through. At 41 years of age and more than 600 home runs under his belt over the span of his illustrious career, Thome’s reason for signing with Philadelphia is simple: He’s after that elusive championship ring, and he thinks he can finally win it in this, his second stint as a Phillie.
Accordingly, the club expects him to suit up and share time at first base in the absence of Ryan Howard, who should return sometime in May after rupturing his Achilles tendon.
That’s easier said than done for Thome, who hasn’t played first base since 2007, when he made one start for the White Sox. Thome has been regarded as a respectable but never stellar fielder, despite the fact that he was drafted as a shortstop.
Other options at first for the time being include Ty Wigginton and John Mayberry Jr., but Manuel is confident his team will benefit from Thome’s bat, work ethic, attitude and intangibles. The manager intends on getting Thome about 200 at-bats in 2012 and plans on using him close to two times per week in the field, in addition to his work as a pinch hitter coming off the bench.
George Christian Pappas covers Major League Baseball and college football for ESPN Florida and ESPN Radios Gainesville/Ocala and St. Augustine/Jacksonville. He is finishing his degree in journalism and Spanish at the University of Florida. You can send him questions or comments at
Sir Charles with the slam