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Friday, January 14, 2011

Thome signs one-year, $3 million deal with Minnesota Twins

By Associated Press - Minneapolis, MN

Jim Thome and the Minnesota Twins have agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract, doubling his salary after he provided a big lift last season for the AL Central champions.

"It's great to be back," the 40-year-old slugger said Friday on a conference call with reporters. "Minnesota's a wonderful place."

The designated hitter was one of the best bargains in baseball last season, hitting 25 home runs in only 276 at-bats while making $1.5 million on a one-year contract. This new deal includes performance bonuses for plate appearances.

Thome ranks eighth in history with 589 homers. He doesn't play in the field anymore, but he gave the Twins a huge boost, particularly after first baseman Justin Morneau's concussion created an everyday spot in the lineup.

Thome hit .283 with 16 doubles, two triples, 59 RBIs and 60 walks in 2010.

The five-time All-Star often talked about how much he enjoyed playing for the Twins. The Texas Rangers wanted him, too, giving Thome two playoff teams to consider in his desire to win a World Series.

In the end, his positive experience last season and the proximity to his family's home in Illinois made Minnesota his pick. Might this be his sunset season, assuming he passes the 600-homer mark?

"I don't want to go into this season thinking this is my last year, because I think that's unfair," Thome said. "My plan is to possibly play two more years."

With manager Ron Gardenhire carefully rationing his playing time, particularly early in the season when Morneau was playing every day, Michael Cuddyer was in right field and Jason Kubel was the primary DH, Thome said he finished the season feeling strong and healthy. His back gave him a few problems, but nothing near the setbacks he's endured in the past.

"I still felt like, 'Man, I can still do this,'" Thome said, adding: "I wasn't hurting. My body wasn't beat up."

Now that his contract is in place, Thome's next goal is to get teammate Carl Pavano to come back with him. The right-handed veteran was the leader, stabilizer and workhorse for a rotation that really needed one. Pavano is a free agent, and he's been taking his time mulling his offers.

Thome said he planned to start sending him text messages to recruit him to return.

"If he does come back, he'll be a great addition," Thome said.

Twins general manager Bill Smith said the team is continuing negotiations with Pavano and his agent.

"We've had a lot of good talks. I think Carl's probably at a point where he wants to step back and review his options, and we're hoping he'll make a decision within a week," Smith said, adding: "I think it's in everybody's best interest to get these resolved."

As for Morneau, he's continuing workouts and been given medical clearance to push through any concussion-related symptoms.

"We're very hopeful, very optimistic, that he'll be ready to go for spring training," Smith said.


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