Thome closing in on return to Orioles

Thome closing in on return to Orioles

SEATTLE -- Orioles designated hitter Jim Thome took five or six at-bats in a simulated game at the team's spring facility in Sarasota, Fla., on Monday as the veteran nears a return from a herniated disk in his neck.

"We'd love to get him back," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Thome, who has been sidelined since late July. "Especially with Wilson [Betemit] being out. But we won't see him before Thursday, that's for sure."

The plan is for Thome to go through another simulated game on Tuesday and, assuming all goes well, play in an instructional league game on Wednesday. Acquired from the Phillies in a July 1 trade, Thome hit .261 with two homers and six RBIs in 18 games with the Orioles, and his return would help bolster a lineup already dealing with the loss of Betemit and Nick Markakis, who's likely out the remainder of the season following thumb surgery.

"We'd love to get [Thome] back first for his ability, and also it certainly doesn't hurt with his pedigree and background, the things he's been exposed to," Showalter said. "He'd be another guy who would really give us a needed presence these last 16 games."

While there's nothing new on Markakis, who is still waiting for the pins left to removed from his left thumb, the team did get some good news on Betemit Monday in that he will not need left wrist surgery. Betemit, who already has been on the DL with the injury, aggravated it over the weekend and the immediate plan is for him to get a cortisone shot and let the area calm down.