It's been a storied season for the Cleveland Indians. After finishing 25 games out last year, much wasn't expected form the Indians this season, but they came out swinging and have kept themselves among the leaders of the AL Central all year. Injuries, however, have reared its ugly head and the Tribe has found themselves 6 ½ games behind the Detroit Tigers and losers of 6 out of the last 7.
Thus management decided that something was needed to help turn this season around before it was lost. That something, Cleveland hopes, is the return of power slugger Jim Thome to the team he played his first 12 years at. The Indians traded for the newest member of the 600 homer club and after Thome accepted Thursday night, they will welcome back one of the premier players in the history of the franchise.
"He's excited," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said of Thome. "He's fired up to come back and join the team. I am hopeful and confident that fans will embrace him wearing an Indians uniform again. He's not only an exceptional player but a person as well. Even if he wasn't a person that hit 600 home runs, he's just a great person."
Thome, considered one of the most likable guys in baseball, adds a depth of experience and locker room leadership that the Indians haven't had all year. At 40 years old, he isn't the same player he was when he was last with Cleveland but the aged vet still has some pop left in his bat and used right, he could turn the tide for this Indians season.
"We will have to manage his playing time," Antonetti said. "He's certainly not an everyday player at this point. We'll work with Jim on this. We'd like to have him out there to impact the team as often as we can. Every game for the team is meaningful. We are trying to win as many games as possible and we'll see where that takes us."
Cleveland put a claim in for Thome on Wednesday, two days after the Twins waived him. Once the Indians were awarded Thome, the clubs had 48 hours to work out a trade. The Twins will receive a player to be named later by Oct. 15.
"There's no question it's a bittersweet deal," Twins GM Bill Smith said. "But there's also no question this is the right thing to do for Jim Thome.
"He is all the superlative things that we knew we were getting when he came here two years ago. At this point in his Hall-of-Fame career, this is the right thing for him."
It's rare that a potential Hall of Fame player gets a chance to end his career in the place where he began it but for Thome, that chance is here as life has come full circle for him. People in Cleveland will flock in droves to see their former icon and though, realistically, they probably won't catch the Tigers, just having Thome back is a win for the fans and the organization.
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