07/16/12 8:09 PM ET
Thome returns to Target Field with Orioles
By Rhett Bollinger and Jordan Garretson / MLB.com
After playing three games against the Twins as a member of the Phillies from June 12-14, Thome returned Monday as Minnesota opened up a four-game set with Baltimore. He entered the opener hitting .257 with a .333 on-base percentage in nine games with the Orioles.
Thome's return to the American League has also allowed him to work as a designated hitter again, though he did not start Monday's game.
"That's been great," the 41-year-old Thome said. "Getting four at-bats and being able to make those adjustments, compared to pinch-hitting once a night and having a lot of respect for guys that are successful pinch-hitting.
"I'm happy to be here. Being able to play a little bit more is a lot of fun, no doubt."
Thome swung the bat well when the Phillies visited Minnesota during Interleague Play. He went 5-for-11 with two home runs and nine RBIs in those three games.
He also left something pretty important at Target Field -- career home run ball No. 607. Thome's shot off of Scott Diamond on June 14 landed in the flowerbed in right field, and was recovered only after the game.
Gardenhire had the ball in his possession prior to Monday's game.
"I've got it," Gardenhire said with a grin. "So he's got to do something to get this ball. He hit it against us. He hurt our feelings. So if he wants the ball back, Jimmy, make my day."
Homers on the rise at Target Field
MINNEAPOLIS -- Home runs are up at Target Field this year, as there have been 100 homers in 45 games prior to Monday's game against the Orioles, after 126 were hit there in 81 games in 2011.
The Twins have accounted for 43 homers while opponents have combined for 57 blasts. It's led to 2.22 homers per game, which is up from 1.55 in '11 and 1.43 in '10.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire pointed to warmer weather as part of the reason, but also pointed out his team has been giving up too many long balls.
"That's exactly what I think -- it's carrying, especially with those belt-high fastballs," Gardenhire joked. "Those carry really well."
ESPN's MLB Park Factor, which compares the rate of stats at home against the rate on the road, has Target Field as a neutral park for homers this season, as they rank 16th in the Majors in home run park factor. It's up from ranking as the 20th-toughest place to homer in '11 and the toughest in baseball to homer in '10.
Orioles designated hitter Jim Thome, who played with the Twins in '10 and '11, said he's heard plenty of theories about the increase in homers in the park's third season.
"One of the theories you always hear is once concrete settles in, the ball carries better," Thome said. "I think when you look at it, we're having a hot summer, maybe that has a little bit of an effect.
"So I think there's a lot of different theories you can come up with on why it's happening, or why this is happening, but it's a great place."
Gardenhire tries to minimize trade talk distraction
MINNEAPOLIS -- With the Trade Deadline two weeks away, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said that trade rumors have been a point of discussion between his players in the clubhouse.
The Twins have scuffled recently, as they enter Monday's game against the Orioles on a five-game losing streak that has them 13 games back in the American League Central.
They appear likely to be sellers come the deadline as a result, but Gardenhire said he's trying to keep his players focused, instead of worrying about being traded.
"It's casual conversation, as usual," Gardenhire said. "Just walking through and talking to guys. You've got players asking, "What you do you hear? What's going on?' But I don't go out there and talk trades with them.
"It's the same answer that you can't do anything about it. You can't control it. It's flattering to have your name out there."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.