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Thome signs with Twins

January 15, 2011
From AP wire reports

Jim Thome didn't need much time to determine he wanted to return for a 21st season. His back felt fine, and after 25 home runs in 276 at-bats for Minnesota last year, his powerful uppercut swing was sure in prime form.

"I still felt like, 'Man, I can still do this,'" said Thome, who decided about a month after last season to keep his career going.

Thome and the Twins agreed Friday to a $3 million, one-year contract, doubling his salary after he provided a big lift last season for the AL Central champions. His new deal includes performance bonuses for plate appearances.

With manager Ron Gardenhire carefully rationing his playing time, particularly in the first half of the season when Justin Morneau was playing first base, 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 wasn't hurting. My body wasn't beat up," Thome said on a conference call with local reporters. "I go, 'Wait a minute. This may work out.'"

The designated hitter was one of baseball's best 2010 bargains, hitting .283 with 16 doubles, two triples, 59 RBI and 60 walks. Making $1.5 million on a one-year contract, Thome's on-base-plus-slugging percentage was an eye-popping 1.039.

"He was a huge part of our success last year. We would not have won the division without him," general manager Bill Smith said.

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 Justin Morneau's concussion created an everyday spot in the lineup.

Prince Fielder, AL MVP Josh Hamilton, major league home run champion Jose Bautista and Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon headed 119 players who filed for salary arbitration Friday.

All expect to get large raises, either in settlements or in cases that go to hearings next month.

Papelbon, who can become a free agent after the season, made $9.35 million last year. He was 5-7 with a 3.90 ERA - two runs higher than in 2009 - striking out 76 in 67 innings.

About half the players in arbitration are expected to settle by Tuesday, when players and their clubs swap proposed salaries. Only a handful typically take their cases to hearings.



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