Thome's game-changing jolt goes a long way

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2011 - 6:31 AM

The big lefty launched a 490-foot bomb, longest in Target Field history.

Ben Revere celebrated JIm Thome three-run homer in the sixth inning.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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As soon as he swung Sunday, players in the dugout jumped to their feet and clamored to the railing to watch Jim Thome's 596th homer strike seven rows up in the upper deck seats in right field for an impressive 490 feet, the longest bomb hit at Target Field to date.

The three-run blast broke a 1-1 tie, boosted a good performance from starter Brian Duensing and vaulted the Twins over the Royals 4-3.

"It was a close ballgame, it's smoking out there and he gives you a big three-run lead," manager Ron Gardenhire said of the shot that cruised through the humid, 93-degree air. "That was a big at-bat and [Royals starter Felipe Paulino] made one mistake and that's what this guy does, he puts it in the seats."

With two outs Paulino, who had been pitching very well, left a slider over the plate and Thome jumped on it.

"It was ridiculous," Duensing said. I stood up immediately. I knew it was gone when he hit it ... I didn't know it was going to go that far. That's why it's so fun watching him hit -- you just never know when it's going to happen and when he gets them, it's usually in big situations or very large home runs and today was both."

Said Thome of the shot: "Anytime you hit a ball that far, it's always special, that feeling you kind of want to last forever."

Two in, two out

Following Sunday's game, Gardenhire announced he would send Matt Tolbert to Class AAA Rochester to make space for an extra pitcher for Monday's doubleheader.

Scott Diamond, who has a 4.70 ERA through 17 games with the Red Wings, will pitch the second game, while Anthony Swarzak will fill in Game 1 for Scott Baker, who was moved to the 15-day disabled list after telling Gardenhire he didn't think his strained right elbow was ready to go.

Baker has not pitched since July 5, when he was taken out after five innings when he hurt his elbow. Before Sunday's game Baker said he felt fine but later told Gardenhire he was concerned with soreness and was unsure of the ramifications of a start at this point.

Since Baker already has missed time for the injury, his DL stint can be backdated 10 days, which would make him eligible to pitch again Friday.

"When a player tells me something like that, we're not even going to take a chance," Gardenhire said. "He wanted to pitch, but it just wasn't going to work out. You can't have uncertainty out there."

The team recalled Rochester reliever Chuck James, who has a 2.25 ERA through 26 games and has struck out 48 in 40 innings.

Etc.

• Joe Nathan has pitched in three consecutive games, something he has not done since having Tommy John surgery in March. With a doubleheader Monday, he could be called on again.

"I know we're going to need all hands on deck," he said. "Obviously, this is uncharted territory since the surgery, so I'm going to do what I have to do today to take care of it. But I know how important tomorrow is, not just with the team we're having, but that we have 18 innings to cover. So I know we're going to need every arm down there."

• Gardenhire watched most of the game from the clubhouse Sunday as he continued to deal with an esophageal virus that has bothered him for the past couple of days. He had a freezer bag full of medications he was taking for it.

• After Japan won Sunday's women's World Cup final against the United States, Tsuyoshi Nishioka stormed the clubhouse, shouting, "Oh, sorry, sorry," in English.

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