ATLANTA — The 41-year-old future Hall of Famer sat at his locker Tuesday not yet resigned to his fate. A month in the National League had already put considerable strain on Jim Thome's chronically cranky back.
"It's pretty much what I've had my whole career," Thome said.
In the past, Thome said, it could take three, five or six days to improve. But on the fourth day, Thome was placed on the 15-day disabled list. The Phillies recalled catcher Erik Kratz to replace him.
A trip to the disabled list could benefit both team and player. Charlie Manuel now has a full bench with the addition of the righthanded-hitting Kratz. And Thome could spend as many as 20 days in the minor leagues on an official rehab assignment to see some live pitching.
But there are still lingering questions about the viability of this reunion, as heartwarming it may be. Thome, who signed a $1.25 million deal during the winter, had 37 at-bats during a month of Grapefruit League play in March. That did not help his timing at the plate; he was just 2 for 18 with 10 strikeouts and no extra-base hits in the season's first month.
Before Tuesday's 4-2 victory over Atlanta, Manuel insinuated more minor-league at-bats while on the disabled list could aid Thome.
"The longer he sits there, sometimes I think he needs to go hit," Manuel said.
Manuel said he was wanting to play Thome "a couple of times a week, at least" at first base. That, also, is under great question. Thome made four starts in the season's first 21 games. He injured his back on a slide at second base last Saturday, but it was likely the culmination of all the strain put on it from fielding for the first time in five years.
When asked if the disabled list could benefit him, Thome was non-committal.
"I certainly don't want to put Charlie in an uncomfortable position every night not having a guy ready," Thome said. "I understand that part of the game. I've been playing a long time and I understand that. But there's also the sense to get back as quick as we can. I can't answer that."
Kratz was recalled because he is already on the 40-man roster and there is a dearth of other options. In 54 plate appearances, Kratz hit .294 with three home runs and four doubles for triple-A Lehigh Valley. He's played in 11 career major-league games.
Thome is the eighth Phillies player currently on the disabled list.
Contact Matt Gelb at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @magelb.