NEW YORK -- During the Orioles' postseason run, manager Buck Showalter often said that 42-year-old future Hall-of-Famer Jim Thomewas walking around the clubhouse with the exuberance of a kid playing his first day of Little League.
The Orioles acquired Thome from the Phillies to provide an experienced left-handed bat to help them get to the postseason. And while Thome spent a lot of his time in an Orioles uniform battling a herniated disk in his neck, Thome had some key hits for the O’s down the stretch.
"I thought we had a tremendous year, you know,” Thome said. “You look at our ballclub, you know. We brought a lot of excitement to Baltimore. We have a lot of good, young players that really stepped it that put baseball back in a good way on the map in Baltimore."
Thome and Showalter developed a quick bond, and both said that crossing paths this season was something that was supposed to happen as two men so rooted in the game.
Thome, who has played in 71 career postseason games, struggled in the American League Division Series, going 1-for-12 with 4 strikeouts. His one hit – a ninth-inning single in Game 4 – was initially ruled an error.
“When you get into the postseason everything is magnified,” Thome said. “We understand. We understand that. There's nothing to be ashamed of. What was cool from my point of view was coming to Baltimore at mid-season and watching the way the city kind of revived itself. I think the young players here really uplifted everything. There's a lot to be proud of. It's going to be an exciting time for years to come, coming to Baltimore."
Showalter praised Thome for working hard to come back from his injury in time to help the team, especially for humbly going down to Sarasota, Fla., and working his way back through instructional league.
But Showalter also likes flexibility with his DH spot, something the Orioles didn't have much of with Thome on the roster. When healhty, Thome played mostly against right-handers, while Lew Ford took most of the DH duties against lefties.
The free-agent Thome, who has battled injuries for years, said following the Orioles’ season-ending ALDS Game 5 loss that he didn’t know what his future held. But he seemed open to the idea of returning to Baltimore if he’s wanted back.
"Yeah, you know, I’m gonna go home,” Thome said. “I always talk about [how] I'm not worrying about next year. This is a tough loss. This is a tough loss. I've been able to do this a long time, and felt very blessed to do it for a long time. I've always said, you've got to have teams call. You've got to have teams that want you. Right now, this is a little tough because you wanted to keep going, you really did. You wanted to keep going."
Asked speficialy if he’d be willing to return if the Orioles called, he said: "We'll get into that if that happens. We'll get into that."