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CLEARWATER/LAKELAND, Fla (CBS/AP) — Jim Thome found himself in an unfamiliar place Sunday — first base.
Thome played five innings at first and hit a two-run double for a Philadelphia Phillies’ split squad in a 3-3, 10-inning tie against the Baltimore Orioles.
The 41-year-old, who has not played the field in the regular season since eight innings for the Chicago White Sox at the Phillies on June 13, 2007, did not have any grounders hit to him. He had three putouts.
“It felt fun to be out there. The adrenaline was pretty awesome,” a smiling Thome said. “I haven’t had adrenaline like that in quite a while.”
Thome signed a $1.25 million, one-year deal to return to the Phillies. He hasn’t played regularly in the field since his first tour in Philadelphia ended in 2005.
“He looked all right. Looked big and strong,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
With fellow All-Star Ryan Howard set to begin the season on the disabled list while recovering from left Achilles tendon surgery, the Phillies have been playing Thome at first base in minor league games. Sunday was his first time in the field during a major league exhibition.
“I think the main thing is my body has felt pretty good,” said Thome, who has battled chronic back pain. “That has been the big thing.”
Thome hit a two-run double to deep center in a three-run third against Brian Matusz.
Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay struck out nine and walked two in 6 1-3 innings, allowing two runs and seven hits while throwing 89 pitches. He is to have one more tuneup before the April 5 opener at Pittsburgh. It will be his 10th straight opening-day start, the most among active pitchers.
“I feel good,” he said. “You get close to 100 pitches, but you want to get up and down as many times as you can. That can be the hardest part once the season starts, sitting down and then going back out there for an inning. So getting to be able to go out there for a seventh inning and get close to 90 pitches, I felt like it was very productive.”
For the second time in five days, Halladay pitched opposite Baltimore left-hander Brian Matusz. In his third start against the Phillies this spring training, Matusz allowed three runs on six hits while striking out two and walking one in 4 2-3 innings.
“He survived well without what he has spoiled us with. Brian was OK,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. “He wasn’t as fluid as he was and will be. He made quality pitches when he had to.”
“I was rushing a little bit,” Matusz said. “Rushing my delivery, I wasn’t able to settle in with something that felt good. Felt like I was battling all game. Just kept battling, kept attacking the zone.”
Meantime, in Lakeland, the Phillies got off to a fast start against Detroit Tigers starter Justin Verlander, but it wasn’t enough.
After giving up four hits and two runs to the first five batters he faced, Verlander made an adjustment.
What a difference a little bend makes.
Verlander retired 15 of his final 18 batters after talking to pitching coach Jeff Jones and the Tigers beat the Phillies 6-3.
“I left some pitches up,” Verlander said of the first inning. “I started working in the second and third getting my chest over my body a little bit and that seemed to help. I got away from that a little bit in the first and I felt it.”
Verlander retired 12 in a row at one stretch and allowed just three infield singles after the first.
“One of his big keys is to make sure he stays a little bit bent at the waist,” Jones said. “He was kind of staying upright a little too much (in the first). But, he’s very good at making adjustments on his own.”
For the day, Verlander gave up seven hits and two runs with three strikeouts and no walks in six innings. In five spring starts, Verlander is 1-0 with a 2.18 ERA.
Philadelphia’s Scott Elarton limited Detroit to two hits and one run in four innings. The 36-year-old Elarton, who pitched for four major league teams from 1998-2008, is a non-roster invitee competing for a bullpen spot. He hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2008 and was out of baseball completely in 2011.
“I’m glad that one’s over,” Elarton said. “I’ll take the results but it was a struggle from the beginning. I struggled with just about everything but was able to battle through it and get some guys out.”
Elarton said he’s not sure what’s going to happen in his comeback attempt, adding, “I guess I’m past the point of worrying about that stuff. You think about it, but whatever they tell me, I’ll live with it or be happy with it, one of the two.”
Detroit’s lone run off Elarton came in the first on a triple by Brennan Boesch and a sacrifice fly by Prince Fielder.
Detroit minor leaguer Tyler Collins broke a 2-all tie in the seventh with a three-run homer and minor leaguer James McCann added a solo homer in the eighth.
Cody Overbeck homered with two outs in the ninth for the Phillies.
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