SAN DIEGO — Jim Thome will be honored for his contributions to the Phillies’ past when he is inducted onto the team’s Wall of Fame next month.
On Sunday, Thome got a look at a piece of the Phillies’ future.
“Wow,” said Thome, his eyes widening in that Jim Thome kind of way. “The guy is a monster. Very impressive.”
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Thome was talking about Dylan Cozens, the 22-year-old slugging rightfielder who represented the Phillies along with Double A pitcher Ricardo Pinto at the Futures Game, the prospect-filled appetizer to Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.
In his day job, Thome is a special assistant to the general manager for the Chicago White Sox. He moonlighted Sunday as hitting coach for the U.S. Team at the Futures Game.
Before the game, Thome worked in the batting cage with Cozens. He then watched Cozens take batting practice on the field at spacious Petco Park. Cozens, a 6-6, 250-pound left-handed hitter, bashed nine homers — five to centerfield and two each to right and left.
“Just look at the size,” Thome said. “He’s a physical beast with a really nice swing. He’s got great hand positioning coming through the ball and he’s very balanced for his size. He’s got a really pretty swing.”
Cozens has 24 home runs for Reading, second-most in all of minor-league baseball. He ranks second in the Eastern League with 108 strikeouts. (He has walked 47 times.) Team officials would like to see Cozens’ strikeouts come down significantly.
Thome hit 612 homers in a career that will someday land him in the Hall of Fame. He was also a high strikeout guy. He led the American League in strikeouts three times. But he also led the league in walks three times.
“You know how you walk?” Thome said. “Get dangerous. When you’re dangerous at the plate they will pitch around you. By being dangerous you will see balls. Then it comes down to understanding your strike zone. That’s where the discipline process comes in. But I don’t think you want a power hitter like that going up there taking a lot of pitches. Before you know it, it’s 0-2 and that’s when the strikeouts come.”
Because Cozens was his pupil for just one day, Thome did not try to get technical with the Phillies’ prospect. His advice to Cozens was similar to something Charlie Manuel used to tell him when he was a young prospect on the rise.
“You’re going to have your ups and downs,” Thome said. “That’s all part of the grind, as Charlie used to say. Don’t get down. Learn from your successes and failures. Figure it out. Learn from it. Stay under control as a hitter. Don’t try to hit home runs. They will happen. Don’t try to do too much.”
Thome believes that Cozens will be fun to watch in Philadelphia once the young slugger's minor-league education is complete.
“Think about the fun part, the future and what he can do in that ballpark,” said Thome, his eyes widening in that Jim Thome kind of way.