A brief conversation with Frank Thomas


The Big Hurt talks about designated hitters, bullpens and hitting two homers last year

Last year, SB Nation's Dan Rubenstein went to Columbus, Ohio, to drop in on the Pepsi Max Field of Dreams challenge, talking to Frank Thomas among many other legends.

Thomas will make a repeat appearance in 2013's Pepsi Max Field of Dreams game, which will take place May 18 at Frontier Field in Rochester, N.Y. He'll represent the American League with Rickey Henderson, Pedro Martinez, Reggie Jackson and Wade Boggs along with the contest winner and five of his friends, which seems like something that our Ken should have entered and won already.

I had a brief phone conversation with Thomas while sitting outside the Lincoln Memorial, which, on a scale from "Un-American" to "The Most American," ranks as a "Pretty Damn American" thing to do. I suppose I could have waved a sparkler with my non-phone hand if I planned ahead.

*Thomas' swing still looks pretty good, and when I mentioned that I remembered him hitting a homer in last year's game, he made sure to point out that he hit two. But his surgically repaired feet and ankles aren't in great shape. So while he says it's fun to get out there and suit up, at the end of the day, "you remember why you retired."

*He had nothing but praise for Paul Konerko, who recently passed him on the all-time hit list and is creeping up on the home run list. I asked him about a perceptible lack of warmth between them at the turn of the century, but he dismissed the idea. With Thomas ready to shift from first to DH, there was room for both of them.

*The move to DH "cost me 30 or 40 points off my average," Thomas said, because every at-bat is like your first. He complimented Robin Ventura for giving Adam Dunn more playing time at first base, because that's valuable for somebody who is used to National League rhythms.

*While fewer teams field a conventional DH right now, Thomas doesn't see DH-only or DH-first players being phased out, as there will always be guys who can hit in any situation, but are limited otherwise.

*He said he saw the current bullpen construction -- several guys throwing 95+ -- coming into play as his career was wrapping up, but he didn't think they were tougher to face, because he didn't see a ton of guys who really trusted their ability to locate their secondary stuff. He had trouble with somebody who could throw a good slider in any count ("the best pitchers can always pitch backwards") but guys who relied on four-seamers could be figured out at any speed.

*Thomas picked the Sox to grab a wild card in predictions he gave to MLB.com, and he isn't backing down on his optimism for 2013. "I like this team. This team plays like their manager."

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