Owed $46 million over the next 3 years and deemed expendable by the emergence of Ryan Howard, Phillies 1B Jim Thome strongly denies that his size or health/production woes are in any way steroid-releated. From the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jim Salisbury.

Thome is loath to make excuses for his performance, but admits that he was hurt from day one. He says he should have given his strained back longer to heal in spring training. He is not sure how he damaged the flexor tendon in his right elbow, but he knows he couldn’t bear the pain of throwing anymore, and having surgery in August was a must if he wanted to be ready for spring training.

Throughout his struggles, Thome heard all the rumblings. He heard people say he couldn’t turn on a fastball anymore. He heard some people speculate that he may have been experiencing steroid withdrawal.

“I never doubted my ability,” Thome said. “It was just frustrating that I didn’t have my true ability because I was hurt.”

As for the steroid accusations?

“Laughable,” Thome said. “I’ve heard all that stuff and people have asked me about it. Here’s what I tell them – go look at my family photo. Everybody in my family is big. If I ever took a steroid, I’d blow up so much I wouldn’t be able to swing a bat. I’ve never even taken a supplement in my life.”