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Updated: September 16th, 2011 7:19pm
Notebook: Thome not ruling out another season; Liriano available

Notebook: Thome not ruling out another season; Liriano available

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Penciled in as the No. 4 batter and designated hitter, Jim Thome made his first appearance at Target Field on Friday night since being traded by the Minnesota Twins to the Cleveland Indians on Aug. 25.

Unfortunately for the 41-year-old slugger, Thome's Cleveland homecoming hasn't exactly garnered the desired results. Since being dealt, Thome is hitting just .240/.309/.340 with one home run, and the Indians have fallen from 6.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers to 13.5 back.

On the other hand, things could be worse. Thome could still be stuck on an illness- and injury-stricken Twins team that has fallen 30 games under .500.

"I was excited," Thome said about last month's trade that sent him back to the team he entered the league with.

"I think there was a lot of history here, there was a lot of just memories from the past. And when they claimed me I think it was something for me I was pretty excited about. You get a chance to go back to a place that you started your career. And obviously when I left there, you never know if you're going to get that chance to go back. And to do that and be a part of this, it's been pretty fun. I've had a lot of fun since I've been here, for sure."

No longer able to handle the strain of playing every day, Thome has still been extremely productive in part-time duty over the past two seasons, mashing 38 home runs in 637 plate appearances.

When asked about possibly returning for a 22nd season in 2012, Thome -- an impending free agent -- wouldn't rule it out.

"I felt very, very blessed that I've been able to play as much as I have again this year, being a year older than I was the last year," he said. "From that end of it, I feel great about.

"Let's face it. A team's gotta call you. You've got to get into the winter and see where you stand with that. I haven't really thought about if I'm going to play next year. I think once I get home and sit down with my wife, I think similar to last year, we'll see where we're at, for sure."

Thome's base salary this season was $3 million, and he initially signed for $1.6 million with the Twins in 2010 -- both extremely reasonable prices to pay for the production Thome has provided.

"If he wants to play," manager Ron Gardenhire said, "I'm sure there's ball clubs -- hopefully ours -- that would love to have him. As a manager, I would."

Liriano available

Sidelined since Aug. 25 with shoulder discomfort, left-hander Francisco Liriano was cleared Friday to pitch out of the bullpen.

And with the Twins facing a doubleheader in Cleveland on Sept. 24, Gardenhire said it's likely the lefty will start one of those games and throw two or three innings on a limited pitch count.

Liriano owns a 4.84 ERA with 109 strikeouts and 73 walks in 132 innings this season -- a massive drop-off from his post-surgery breakout season in 2010.

Span back next week?

With only two weeks left in the season, the Twins are hopeful outfielder Denard Span can simply get back on the field to show that his migraine and concussion symptoms are under control.

Span will not travel with the team to New York on Monday, but there is hope he can play in a game or two shortly after.

"The plan is when we get back from New York he'll be able to get on the field and play, at least once or twice," Gardenhire said. "That's what we're hoping for. We're going to let him work out here two or three days, go about his business here and see what happens."

Span hasn't played since Aug. 13, and as of Wednesday he had not yet strung together several symptom-free days in a row.

Other injury notes

• 1B Justin Morneau (concussion) is currently dealing with a stomach illness and will not work out until at least Saturday. He also has yet to string together multiple symptom-free days in a row, and it looks more and more as if he may not play before the end of the season.

• RHP Scott Baker (elbow) will throw a bullpen Saturday and will be re-evaluated after that. It's still possible he could pitch out of the bullpen before the end of the season.

• 2B Alexi Casilla (hamstring) will work out with the team this weekend and run the bases, and the trainers will make a decision on him after the weekend.

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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