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Article updated: 7/2/2013 9:58 PM

Thome back with White Sox as assistant to GM

By Scot Gregor

Subtractions figure to be coming for the White Sox in July, and they could be multiple.

On Tuesday, however, it was all about addition.

Earlier in the day, the Sox announced they signed Micker Adolfo Zapata. The 16-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic received a $1.6 million bonus, the largest ever paid by the White Sox for an international prospect.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Zapata is ranked as the No. 2 international prospect by MLB.com.

"Micker is a terrific young man who is tremendously talented," Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement. "As we've gotten to know Micker and his family, we've been even more and more impressed. We cannot say enough about his baseball potential and his future with the White Sox."

Hahn was in the Dominican Republic for the signing.

Later Tuesday, the Sox announced that former slugger Jim Thome is back with the organization as a special assistant to Hahn.

While he hasn't "officially" retired, Thome played 22 major-league seasons, most recently with the Baltimore Orioles last year. The Peoria native was with the White Sox from 2006-09.

Considering he ranks seventh all time with 612 home runs, Thome eventually is going to land in the Hall of Fame.

"This actually happened so quick, I didn't want today to be about me coming down here and announcing my retirement and crying in front of you guys," the 42-year-old Thome said. "I think you let that kind of all play itself out and we'll address that (retirement) at some point."

In mid-June, Thome got a call from assistant GM Buddy Bell about taking a job with the Sox.

"We sat down and they had some ideas," said Thome, who lives in suburban Burr Ridge. "I gave them my thoughts and we came up with this game plan. Family was big for me. Not being on the road too much away from my family was big, I will say that.

"I had the opportunity, a half of this season, to be at home and enjoy that, and I have to say I truly enjoyed it."

Considering his exploits as a player, Thome has to be considered a serious candidate should the Sox decide it's time to replace hitting coach Jeff Manto and inject some new life into a struggling offense.

But with a 5-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter at home, Thome doesn't sound ready to resume a heavy travel schedule at the moment.

"I think the steppingstone is just to kind of stay in the game," Thome said. "Ultimately, I think you always have aspirations of doing other things. Whatever that is, I think the process will play (out). I think learning, being around great baseball guys like Robin (Ventura) and learning stuff from Rick Hahn, obviously Kenny Williams has been very successful, these guys have won a World Series.

"If they can help me and teach me a little bit as well, I'll take everything in."

For now, Thome's job description is "working with major-league staff and players and visiting minor-league affiliates throughout the summer to evaluate player performance."

If that sounds familiar, Ventura came back to the White Sox with a similar job title in June 2011. He took over as Sox manager last season.

"It's an honor to have him back here," said White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf of Thome. "Before he left, we had a handshake that at some point after he was done playing, he was going to come back.

"Whether he was going to come back was never an issue. It was just a matter of when. You can't get enough quality people, but I don't want to bring guys back just to bring guys back.

"We want to bring guys back who can make a contribution. He's not coming back as a figurehead. He's coming back as a guy we think can really help. I think Jim Thome someday will manage a major-league team. I think he has that ability.

"He can be a batting coach -- he'd be a great batting coach. But someday he'll be a manager. That's what he'll be."

ŸFollow Scot's White Sox and baseball reports on Twitter@scotgregor, and check out his Chicago's Inside Pitch blog at dailyherald.com.

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