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A's Thomas meeting up with renewed success


The Oakland Athletics have a tradition during spring training. Each day, a new player is introduced, and for a few minutes there's an impromptu question-and-answer session.

Normally, it lasts 10 minutes.

February's introduction of A's designated hitter Frank Thomas took about 45 minutes.

To be fair, it was raining that morning, so there was no rush to leave the clubhouse. But that's not the main reason the young A's stayed.

"A lot of players wanted to get into his mind," said manager Ken Macha. "He was very helpful, and it was a very interesting discussion. He opened himself up to everybody and all the experiences he had in baseball and why he's had so much success."

Thomas, a two-time Most Valuable Player and five-time All-Star, was one of the most intriguing free agents last winter. The World Series champion Chicago White Sox decided, after he played just 34 games in 2005 because of injuries, that his services were no longer needed.

It was an irreconcilable breakup with the only franchise Thomas had known. It forced the former superstar to go door-to-door looking for a job at the winter meetings.

The Orioles talked to him, and manager Sam Perlozzo, for one, was impressed. But, as was the case with most clubs, Thomas' left foot problems scared off the Orioles.

"We were close. Sammy and I talked about it and it was cool," Thomas said. "It was something that could have worked out, but the doctors made the decision for the organization and their stance was they didn't think I'd be able to play this year."

Oakland took the chance, signing him to a one-year, $500,000 contract with incentives worth an additional $2.6 million. He's on pace to earn about $2 million of those incentives.

More important to the 38-year-old potential Hall of Famer, he is proving he can still play. Although he was hitting just .246 through Friday night, his on-base percentage was .375 and he was second on the team in homers (20) and RBIs (51). He'll be a free agent again this winter, and he said he wants to play at least until he is 40.

"I've proven everybody wrong, so far, anyway," Thomas said. "It's not a typical Frank Thomas year, but it's a lot better than people ever imagined."

Locked-up Sox

By signing starter Josh Beckett, 26, to a three-year, $30 million contract extension last week, the Boston Red Sox now have five young pitchers locked up through the 2009 season. That nucleus is Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, 25, Jon Lester, 22, Craig Hansen, 22, and Manny Delcarmen, 24.

"It's nice to have that kind of young pitching coming to build around," general manager Theo Epstein said.

Good old days

Here's something that can momentarily make Orioles fans forget the current woes: On Tuesday, A&E; Home Video and Major League Baseball are releasing six World Series film collections on separate DVDs, including an Orioles disc featuring highlights from the 1966, 1970 and 1983 title seasons. It retails for $19.95 and can be purchased at shopAETV.com.

Quick hits

If the Cleveland Indians don't trade starter Jake Westbrook, they'll likely pick up his $5.6 million option for 2007. ... The Texas Rangers hope to begin contract extension talks soon with shortstop Michael Young.

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