Thome struggling out of the gates
White Sox DH remains positive, focused on winning
CHICAGO -- Jim Thome opened the 2008 regular season with two monstrous home runs off Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia, the defending American League Cy Young winner who previously had held Thome hitless in his career.
The prolific White Sox slugger looked poised for another big April, much like the 10 home runs and .300 average he carried during his first month with the team in 2006. But since Thome's grand opening at his old stomping ground in Cleveland, he has just three hits in 33 at-bats.
This early season slump hasn't messed with Thome's always-positive psyche, though, with the veteran feeling as if he's close to cutting loose.
"I'm starting to feel better, so I just have to grind it out and keep battling," Thome said. "One thing I've learned is never get too high or too low during good and bad times. Every day is a learning experience, and if you put the work in, you will be rewarded."
"Thome shouldn't be panicking or pressing," added White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, citing his designated hitter's impressive offensive resume as reason enough to believe he will start hitting soon. "I [don't] worry about him."
Entering Saturday afternoon's second game of the weekend series with Detroit, Thome had a .143 average with the two home runs and six RBIs. Other proven veterans such as Paul Konerko (.200, one home run) and Orlando Cabrera (.182) also were battling through slow starts.
Yet, the White Sox are winning. That success, in part, is a function of players such as A.J. Pierzynski (.429), Jermaine Dye (.382) and Joe Crede (.361, 11 RBIs) picking up their slumping teammates.
"Last year was different because we all went bad at the same time," Dye said. "But something like that will happen over the course of a year. Some guys will be going good, and some won't."
"We have guys who have stepped up and are coming up big, and that's the great thing," Thome added. "We are playing well, and that's most important. I'm just looking for signs of improvement."
Facing Justin Verlander might be the cure-all Thome needed, as he has five career home runs against the Detroit ace. Regardless of the results on Saturday, though, Thome knows the work eventually will lead to the production that has put him in the 500-home run club and made him a Hall of Fame candidate when he retires.
"His pregame work is off the charts. He's as good as I've ever seen him before the game," White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker said of Thome. "He's swinging at bad pitches right now, and he's a little anxious.
"You just sit back and watch with Jimmy, and make sure he's doing things right. He's proven over the years he'll get it going. There's not a lot for us to do but let him go play right now."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.