PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. - Ron Gardenhire understands the limitations that a 42-year-old Jim Thome would bring, having slowed from molasses-like to glacial. "Most of the time he hits, it's probably going to go out of the ballpark, or he's done," the Twins manager said. "You've got every player on the [right] side, so a ground ball's going to get him out, even to the outfield."
But that "out of the ballpark" part still has Gardenhire intrigued.
Asked Sunday if he had given up on adding Thome to his bench, Gardenhire said, "Not yet. Still fighting that one."
That probably means persuading both Thome to accept a contract without a guaranteed spot on the 40-man roster, and his own front office to give the future Hall of Famer a shot.
With four weeks to go before Opening Day, something still could happen, the manager said. "We'll see how it all breaks down," Gardenhire said. "We're going to see where we're at and what we think of the guys we have first. And then, you know what, as we get along here in spring training, he'll get antsy. So we'll see what happens."
Thome's role likely would be limited to pinch-hitting duties on most days, since switch-hitter Ryan Doumit is the incumbent designated hitter. That sort of irregular work hasn't led to the best results for Thome lately. He is a .217 career hitter with five home runs in 163 pinch-hit appearances, went 2-for-18 last year, and is 5-for-31 with one homer and 21 strikeouts in the role over the past two years.
Italy can wait
Chris Colabello is batting .333 this spring with two doubles, and is making a good impression as he tries out for a backup role at first base. So while he is thrilled to play for Team Italy, his father's homeland and a country where he spent much of his childhood, he wanted to squeeze in a couple of more at-bats before he leaves for 10 days.
"I booked the latest flight I could, so I could try to play" in Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, Colabello said of his travel plans to Arizona, where the Italian team -- which also features Twins catcher Drew Butera and former Twins infielder Nick Punto -- will hold its first workout Monday. "But the latest I could get was 7 p.m."
Since the Twins played in Charlotte Sports Park, about a 45-minute drive away, Colabello eventually decided that extra innings, postgame traffic or a slow bus ride was too big a risk. He stayed in camp, passing up a chance for three more at-bats in front of Gardenhire.
Gardenhire was skeptical of Colabello's story, however, noting that the Twins were scheduled to face Cy Young Award winner David Price.
Cole De Vries, who won five games last year and has pitched two scoreless innings this spring, gets his first start of camp as the Twins face the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla.