Thome enjoying ride as O's chase playoff spot

Thome enjoying ride as O's chase playoff spot

BALTIMORE -- When asked what it's like to be in the middle of a playoff chase, Jim Thome showed all of the enthusiasm of a wide-eyed rookie as opposed to his role as the Orioles' most-seasoned veteran.

Thome, who at 42 has played almost 20 years, is not even thinking about retirement as the Orioles are within 1 1/2 games of the first-place Yankees in the American League East. Thome said there is a similar feeling with the Orioles this season as it was early in his career with Cleveland, when the Indians finally ended their postseason drought.

"I'm focusing in on now and now worrying about next year," Thome said. "I don't really look ahead. I'm looking to today and not getting head of myself. Just enjoy the ride."

Thome spent nearly two months on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his neck. However, since returning to the lineup last week, he has made an impact as a designated hitter, knocking in the go-ahead run in Saturday's 9-6 victory over the Red Sox in 12 innings.

The sole focus now is helping Baltimore advance to the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

"In the long run for everybody, the ultimate is to get an opportunity to get into the postseason," Thome said. "What you do from there, remains to be seen. But for me personally, it's been a little bit of a tough year as far as injury-wise. There are no regrets. You get back, you work hard and whatever role you're in, you do the best in that role to help your club."