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Thome's annual trek to bench ill-timed

Thome's annual trip to bench ill-timed

CHICAGO -- Just when Jim Thome really seems to have hit full stride with the bat, launching home run No. 553 of his illustrious career during Thursday's 4-3 victory over Detroit, he now gets to sit for the next nine games.

"I always dread this time of year, especially the way I'm feeling," Thome said with a smile. "I'm starting to feel pretty good, and all of a sudden I just become a pinch-hitter."

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Thome temporarily will be relegated to the bench due to the White Sox embarking on the road portion of Interleague Play at National League ballparks. The White Sox travel to Milwaukee this weekend for the first regular-season meeting between the clubs since 2001 -- when the White Sox swept a three-game series at Miller Park.

That trio of games is followed by three sure-to-be-hotly contested battles at Wrigley Field, and then three more games in Cincinnati next weekend. Thome's big bat will be traded in for wild swings coming from starting pitchers Clayton Richard, Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle, John Danks and Gavin Floyd.

With Paul Konerko possibly out of action for a bit due to the recurrence of a right thumb injury, the White Sox will have to rely more on the ninth-inning small ball that won them Thursday's game.

"Absolutely," said White Sox center fielder Brian Anderson, who scored Thursday's game-winning run after leading off the ninth with a single to center against Joel Zumaya. "At the same time, that gives Jim nine chances to be pretty dangerous.

"Jim is about as professional as you can get. He'll be ready. We just have to do our job to get on base, especially the guys who aren't power hitters."

Factoring in Thursday's two-hit, two-RBI effort, Thome is 6-for-14 with three home runs, seven RBIs and six walks in his past five games. Those are pretty solid numbers for a future Hall of Famer who now becomes simply a pinch-hitter.

"I'll maintain my work and try to use a couple of days here and there to hit early and try to stay sharp," Thome said. "But I'll ultimately be ready to roll at any time when called upon."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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