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Pinch-hitting role suits Thome fine in LA

Pinch-hitting role suits Thome fine

LOS ANGELES -- Before the trade that brought Jim Thome from the White Sox to the Dodgers was finalized Monday night, Thome made a brief phone call.

He wanted to get in touch with Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti, just to voice his concern about playing first base.

Thome has a troubled back that struggles to handle the defensive requirements associated with playing the position.

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"I hadn't played it and with my back I needed to talk to him about that and be honest," Thome said while addressing reporters for the first time as a Dodgers player on Wednesday.

"At least let him know from my end where I stood."

Thome's concerns will never be realized, as the closest he'll get to wearing his glove on the field will be during warmups.

The Dodgers acquired Thome strictly to be a pinch-hitter, and he's perfectly OK with that role -- even if it means risking a chance to reach 600 career home runs.

"To come off the bench and get a big hit late in the game or in the middle of the game, it's a once-in-a-lifetime situation," he said. "I would never have been able to live it down if these guys celebrate in October and I couldn't."

Thome, 39, entered Wednesday with 564 career home runs, and as a pinch-hitter, he will sacrifice precious at-bats that he would have had if he stayed in the American League.

But for Thome, a shot at home run No. 600 isn't as important as a shot at a ring -- something that probably wouldn't have been possible with the White Sox this season.

"Not as much as winning," Thome said. "I can't sit here and say that I haven't thought about it. ... You obviously do think about it. It's a historical thing in the game."

Thome will have the occasional chance to do some damage at the plate with the Dodgers, and he doesn't think that pinch-hitting will affect his rhythm as a hitter.

"You're just not getting four at-bats," Thome said of the difference between designated hitting and pinch-hitting.

"You're coming off the bench, which is virtually the same thing."

Dodgers manger Joe Torre was even more blunt about any pinch-hitting concerns with Thome, saying that Thome essentially pinch-hit four times a game when he was the White Sox designated hitter.

In that role, Thome hit .249 with 23 home runs and 74 RBIs this season.

Thome said he'll probably hit in the cage during games to stay loose, and that he'll try to keep active in the dugout.

But that won't be all that different from what his routine was as a DH.

"As a DH you have to stay active during the game," he said. "That's one thing that I'll try do the best I can is be as active and stay loose."

The Dodgers' move to acquire Thome doesn't just provide the club a left-handed power bat off the bench, but it reunited Thome with his former Indians teammate, Manny Ramirez.

The two played together in Cleveland from 1993-2000, a stint that included two trips to the World Series.

David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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