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Updated: February 20th, 2011 1:36pm
Live from Florida, Day 4: Thome feeling good; Liriano cleared to throw

Live from Florida, Day 4: Thome feeling good; Liriano cleared to throw

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- A rundown of the news, notes and quotes from Day 4 at Minnesota Twins spring training:

Catching up with ... Jim Thome

Designated hitter Jim Thome arrived to Fort Myers on Sunday feeling much healthier than he has in recent springs.

Not that he wasn't feeling good, for the most part, during a 2010 campaign where he posted a .283/.412/.627 batting line with 25 home runs in only 340 plate appearances.

But Thome has battled plantar fasciitis over the last couple years -- an ailment that has bothered him when he runs, thus limiting his offseason conditioning routines.

Insert joke about Thome's baserunning.

Upon arriving to spring training, Thome said his foot finally feels 100%.

"I think this winter for me was a little different, just in a sense that I got to move around more than normal," Thome said. "My foot finally healed ... Really the last couple years I was, I don't want to say limited in what I could do, but I could do a lot more things this winter than I normally have. It felt great. I got to work out and stay active. It was a great winter."

Thome took batting practice Sunday in a group that included Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who was invited by hitting coach Joe Vavra to come over from his personal workouts and take swings in a group setting.

"It looks like he's got a really nice, smooth swing," Thome said about Nishioka. "Obviously his resume, his credentials, what he's done speaks for itself. It'll be fun to kind of learn to get to know him -- being from Japan and kind of getting that side of it. It'll be fun. He'll play a big part in what we're doing."

Thome spent time with another Japanese middle infielder during his days with the White Sox, Tadahito Iguchi, so he understands how the integration will work.

"I think the key is through the interpreter, kind of getting to know him as well," Thome said. "That's who he's going to lean on. It's like any... We're all family. We're going to obviously spend a long time together here as we go. You want to have a good relationship, but you've got to get to know the interpreter too, because he'll help him out as well. That's what I learned with Iguchi. He had a great interpreter, and he was very friendly, and he was very respectful and cordial, how he kind of went about his business."

Thome added, "I don't want to say it's a challenge, but that's the thing. You want to make sure that they are comfortable if they have questions, the interpreter can ask you. I think I read where he's starting to take classes and learning English. That's good. It'll be a good thing. We'll have some fun. It'll be pretty cool to watch and see how he progresses."

Meanwhile, Nishioka looked on with a nod of approval during a batting practice session that saw Thome launch several moonshots over the right-field fence at the Lee County Sports Complex.

Business as usual.

Numbers game

2: The number of catchers on the Twins' 40-man roster -- Joe Mauer and Drew Butera. With Wilson Ramos and Jose Morales both out of the picture, Drew Butera is almost a lock to be the Twins' backup catcher to start the season.

"Well, he's the leading candidate," Gardenhire said. "Nothing's a given, but we sure liked what he did last year, and he's earned every right to say he's our backup catcher. I think he works his tail off. He's a pretty hard working kid. But ... we have some other talented people who can help us out. I don't think he'll take anything for granted. I've already seen him out there getting after it pretty good."

The Twins also have six non-roster catchers at spring training -- Jair Fernandez, Chris Herrmann, Steve Holm, Danny Lehmann, Daniel Rams and Rene Rivera.

45: The number of combined triples and stolen bases for Jim Thome in his 20-year career. Maybe his improved foot health will help boost that number in 2011.

Probably not.

Health watch

• LHP Francisco Liriano (shoulder) was cleared by team doctors on Sunday to begin throwing, and he did so -- from 120 feet. Liriano said he expects to throw a bullpen "probably Tuesday or Wednesday."

"Feeling a lot better," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Probably will do a couple days like that (playing long toss), get him back on the mound eventually, get him to throw a bullpen and go from there. See how he does. Be good to see how he comes in tomorrow after playing long toss and go from there."

Overheard

"That was probably the most media I've ever had the first BP of spring training."
-- Thome, joking about the large number of Japanese reporters watching his batting practice session with Nishioka.

On deck

Pitchers and catchers will continue workouts on Monday, with full-squad workouts beginning Wednesday. First baseman Justin Morneau is expected to report to Fort Myers sometime Monday or Tuesday.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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