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Thome 'very, very happy' with Twins
By Scot Gregor | Daily Herald Staff

Minnesota Twins designated hitter Jim Thome, left, watches Joe Mauer during batting practice before a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday.

 

Associated Press

Minnesota Twins' Jim Thome, left, and Michael Cuddyer

 

Associated Press

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Published: 9/14/2010 11:10 PM

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The elephant was in the room on Tuesday.

Actually, it was the designated hitter - Jim Thome.

His name has been coming up quite a bit lately, and for all the wrong reasons by White Sox standards.

Now playing for the rival first-place Twins after four years and 134 home runs on the South Side, the 40-year-old Thome has been carrying his new club down the stretch while making the Sox look bad for not re-signing him during the off-season.

But it's not like the classy Thome was saying: "I told you so" before Tuesday night's game at U.S. Cellular Field.

"I try not to go there," said Thome, who was 1-for-3 with a walk in the Twins' 9-3 win over the White Sox. "This is the thing ... I'm very, very happy where I'm at. I have a lot of respect for all those guys. I think we've talked about this every time I've been in town. My answer is not going to change.

"It's fun being in a race. I don't look at the fact that it's against (the White Sox) and they didn't bring me back. Hey, I love where I'm at, I've enjoyed this year and it's brought a lot of excitement back into my life, which has been great."

Thome has been great for the Twins down the stretch, hitting 5 homers and knocking in 6 runs in the last six games. For the season, Thome is batting .278 with 23 home runs and 54 RBI in 99 games. The future Hall of Famer also has a .406 on-base percentage and is slugging .631.

"He's one of the classiest guys in the game, and he's hit some big home runs for us," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "As many times as we've watched him kill us before, it's nice to have him beat up on other people and do it for us. He's a winner."

There has been endless talk about the Sox missing Thome's big bat as the Twins have steadily pulled away in the standings during September.

After stretching out his back in the trainer's room before batting practice, Thome said being back in Chicago is not at all awkward.

"No," he said. "I love Chicago. I live here. This is where I grew up. I grew up, I call it down the highway there (Peoria). I don't get uncomfortable coming to Chicago at all; I love it. It's a wonderful city. The people here, the organization treated me great."

With 587 career home runs, Thome is running out of time this season to bag No. 600. He'd have to play another season to reach that milestone, and it's already sounding like the Twins want Big Jim back in 2011.

"I don't really try to go there, either," said Thome, who is nearing the end of a one-year, $1.5 million deal with Minnesota. "I try to focus on the present and don't really worry about, 'Oh, how many more years do you want to play?' I'd like to play another year, sure. But we'll get to that when that time comes. I think the focus now is to try to win this division. Those guys (White Sox) have a very good ballclub and we can't relax. That's where we're at."