OAKLAND — Frank Thomas looks like an odd fit on an A's roster that's seemingly growing younger by the day.

But he indicated before Thursday's 7-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays that he likes the direction the A's are heading and would love to return to the team in 2009.

Although he's in the twilight of his career, Thomas said he won't be driven to sign with another team simply because it appears closer to challenging for a World Series.

"This young talent is going to grow up overnight," Thomas said. —... I got my ring (when the White Sox won the 2005 World Series). I play the game to win every day, but to go jump on somebody else's success, no.

"We'll see how it works out. I hate to lose, but I understand the situation going on (with the A's). I'm happy here. I'd love to give these guys a full, healthy season."

Thomas' year has been marred by a quadriceps injury, and he hasn't delivered when healthy as he or the A's hoped. He's hitting just .246 with eight homers and 29 RBI but did come through with a game-tying single in the ninth inning Thursday.

Thomas, 40, said he hasn't discussed next season with the A's. Though a power hitter would seem to be on their offseason shopping list, they'll likely look elsewhere unless Thomas offers them a bargain price.

The A's were on the hook for only $337,000 when they signed him in April after he was released by Toronto.

Thomas signed a two-year, $18.12 million deal with the Blue Jays before the 2007 season after helping the A's reach the 2006 American League Championship Series.

Gallagher's day

A's right-hander Sean Gallagher made his first start in 10 days since coming off shoulder soreness, and he showed some rust. He walked four and allowed three runs in four innings, with his pitch count already at 91. More important, however, Gallagher said his shoulder felt fine while pitching and afterward. "I wanted to (pitch longer), but they wanted to err on the side of caution," he said.

Short hops

The deadline is 9 tonight for teams to sign 2008 draft picks before losing the rights to them. Seventh-round pick Brett Hunter, a right-hander from Pepperdine, is the only remaining draftee the A's are hopeful of signing. Projected as a possible first-rounder until he had elbow problems, Hunter reportedly wanted a $2 million bonus. "We still have a ways to go" in negotiations, A's assistant GM David Forst said. "... Mike Sweeney (knees) is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Sacramento on Monday. "... Nick Swisher makes his first return to McAfee Coliseum tonight with the Chicago White Sox.

— Joe Stiglich