x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Thome moves up the order

Jim Thome of the Minnesota Twins hit home runs in his first two at-bats to pass Harmon Killebrew for 10th place on the career list with 574 home runs.

Jim Thome, right, passed Killebrew on the list for all time home runs.
Jim Thome, right, passed Killebrew on the list for all time home runs.

MINNEAPOLIS // Jim Thome of the Minnesota Twins hit home runs in his first two at-bats on Saturday to pass Harmon Killebrew for 10th place on the career list with 574 home runs. Thome hit a 1-0 pitch from the Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Wade Davis to the opposite field in the second inning, and it just barely reached the seats in left for his ninth home run of the season.

"I talked to Jim quite a bit when I was in spring training," Killebrew said from Arizona after Thome's first homer. "I told him, 'Don't feel bad if you pass me up, because I passed up a lot of guys in my career'." Thome did just that in the fourth inning, smashing a long home run that landed in the bullpen in left-centre field. The team played a previously taped message from Killebrew, a member of baseball's Hall of Fame and one of the most beloved players in franchise history, congratulating Thome.

"I'm glad he was able to hit it in a Twins uniform," Killebrew said. "I only wish I could have been there to see it." Killebrew has long admired Thome, in part because he is the same sort of lumbering slugger Killebrew was. But even more important to Killebrew is Thome has never been linked to the steroid scandal that has stained so many sluggers of his generation. Killebrew has been an outspoken critic of steroids and their impact on baseball's record books.

Next on the career list is Mark McGwire with 583. The Cardinals hitting coach has admitted to using steroids during his career. Thome, who turns 40 in August, signed a one-year, US$1.5 million (Dh5.5m) deal with the Twins to chase the World Series title that has eluded him in 17 years in the big leagues. His closest brush with a championship came during his time in Cleveland; the Indians lost the World Series in seven games to the Florida Marlins.

He has been a plus for Minnesota with 10 homers and 24 RBI in just 121 at-bats. Killebrew recently held a charity golf tournament in Arizona for his granddaughter, Caitlyn Mae White. The nine-year-old girl was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy with WPW Syndrom in May and will need a heart transplant if medication does not work. * AP