NEW YORK -- Jim Thome feels like he did in Spring Training, and that's not a good thing. His lower back still hurts, forcing him out of the lineup for the second straight game Monday, and keeping his return uncertain. So uncertain that Thome and manager Charlie Manuel met Monday afternoon. They concluded that they needed to figure this out -- and fast.
"If I can't play, I want to know what I need to do to play," Thome said. "It's a little better, but still stiff. It probably would be wise to find out what's going on. I want to get better." Thome hasn't improved much since he felt something on a swing during Saturday's rain-shortened loss to Florida. The pain has kept him from pinch hitting, another bad sign. At this point, Thome's not thinking about the disabled list, though that possibility seemed more real Monday. Clearly frustrated, he'll be examined again Tuesday. Whether 'examined' means an MRI exam or a visit to a back specialist remained unclear. Thome and Manuel said they would do whatever trainer Jeff Cooper said. Thome's Spring Training injury cost him nearly a week, and he said he's never felt right in the two months since. "That's what got me a little concerned, because it went away, we did the treatment and it came back," Thome said. "Then it was fine and came back. I don't think it ever got to the point where it healed. We just need to get it checked out. My mindset is to get it healed as quickly as I can. "It's achy when I wake up. I can tell usually in the morning if it's good or bad." Though Thome will never admit it, manager Charlie Manuel feels that the back may have contributed to Thome's tough April, in which he hit .203 with one homer. "A back situation is serious," Manuel said. "It could put him out for quite awhile. This is probably the worst pain that I've seen him in. We need him. We need a big year out of Jim Thome. Everybody in baseball knows that." Twelve pitchers? With Kenny Lofton also out with hamstring issues, Manuel has been left with a three-man bench. So perhaps he might want to revisit his decision to carry 12 pitchers, especially considering the limited work required of some. Since April 24, Terry Adams, Aaron Fultz and Geoff Geary have combined to pitch six innings. "We've talked about it," said Manuel. "Geoff Geary right now is our two- to three-inning [guy]. If our starting pitching struggles, we're going to need every one of those guys." Because Jason Michaels is starting in center and Tomas Perez has started for Thome at first, that leaves Placido Polanco, Jose Offerman and Todd Pratt, and the backup is generally who you want to save on the bench for emergencies. "We can always put Polanco back in the outfield," Manuel said. "I'm not against that. When we make bring up a guy from Triple-A, we want it to help our club. Injuries like Lofton and Thome cut us short. "At the same time, that gives [the media] something to write about. You can write about who should be on the team, who should pitch, who can play all you want to. I don't give a [darn]." That said, Manuel acknowledged that a decision on whether to disable Thome or Lofton must be made sooner rather than later. "Without a doubt," he said. Oh say can you sing: The vocal stylings of Jimmy Rollins were unleashed on the Phillies prior to Monday's game against the Mets. His original hip-hop tune, "Wish List," is one of the featured tracks on the album, "Oh Say Can You Sing." On the CD, 10 Major Leaguers perform their own versions of popular songs, such as Cleveland's Ben Broussard ("With or Without You" by U2), Cincinnati's Sean Casey ("How Do You Like Me Now?" by Toby Keith) and Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith ("Cupid" by Sam Cooke). The two-disc package hit record stores on Monday. A copy was delivered to the visitors' clubhouse at Shea Stadium, where some of Rollins' teammates howled in delight. "He's an eight-tool player," said Randy Wolf. Coming up: After a short blip, Brett Myers returned to his dominating self by tossing seven shutout innings against the Nationals on April 27.
Myers, who has allowed no runs in three of his five starts, will oppose the Mets' Tom Glavine on Tuesday night.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.