Thome (Back) Not Happy On Bench

By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Jim Thome can't wait to get back into the Indians' lineup -- and stay there for a long time.

"It's no fun not playing," said the Indians first baseman, who missed his sixth consecutive game Wednesday night because of stiffness in his lower back.

"Friday is the day and I can't wait," said Thome, who expects to return for the opener of a three-game series at Jacobs Field against the Detroit Tigers.

Unlike Tuesday, Thome didn't take batting practice before Wednesday's game against the New York Yankees.

Thome originally was in the starting lineup on Tuesday, but was a late scratch after his back tightened.

"It felt great when I was swinging, but I had a little tightness when I took some grounders," he said. "So we shut it down. I don't want this to linger. I want to play."

Thome spent much of the pregame getting treatment.

"We've been putting heat and ice on it for a few days," he said. "Today, I did some stretching exercises in the workout pool. It feels much better."

With the July 31 trading deadline approaching, Thome again was adamant that he does not want to leave Cleveland. He is eligible for free agency after the season.

"I have been up front in what I have said all along and my response now is no different," he said. "I like it here. I want to play here."

Thome was asked about persistent rumors that he might waive a no-trade clause in his contract for a possible deal to Boston, where he has enjoyed success.

"Those other cities are nice places, but I like it here," Thome said. "I don't even think about other places."

Thome's wife, Andrea, is expecting their first child in December and he said that being with her is part of his desire to remain in Cleveland.

"That's big," he said. "Family life is more important than baseball."

Notes: The Indians placed left-handed pitcher Heath Murray on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder inflammation and recalled right-hander Dave Elder from Triple-A Buffalo. "Heath has some shoulder fatigue and needs time to build some strength back up," interim manager Joel Skinner said. Murray allowed runs in each of his last four outings and was 0-2 with a 7.50 ERA in nine games since being called up from Buffalo on June 19. Elder, acquired from Texas before the season for reliever John Rocker, was recalled from Buffalo earlier this month but has yet to pitch in a major league game. He was 2-0 with five saves and a 2.45 ERA with the Bisons.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)