The Philadelphia Phillies signed 41-year-old Jim Thome as a free agent last offseason knowing that he had last played first base in June 2007. They figured he'd be a valuable pinch-hitter and possibly have to play the field on rare occasions.
Those rare occasions turned out to be a bit more frequent, with Ryan Howard still on the shelf recovering from last October's Achilles injury and the Philly offense struggling.
It took just four games at first base for Thome to hurt himself; he suffered a back injury Saturday in a game against the Cubs, and Wednesday the Phillies made the seemingly inevitable decision:
Phillies placed Jim Thome on the DL. Erik Kratz will take his place on the roster. He will be in Atlanta for tonight's game.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) May 2, 2012
Kratz is no prospect; he's 31 years old and primarily a catcher, though he has played some first base in the minor leagues as well. He's probably just a placeholder until the Phillies figure out what to do with their moribund offense. He was hitting .294/.333/.549 with three home runs at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, which would put him in the top ranks of Phillies hitters if he had done that at the major league level.
Thome is nearing the end of a career that will likely send him to the Hall of Fame, perhaps even on the first ballot, but whether he'll be able to play much, or at all, this season is an open question.