GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Resembling his high-school yearbook photo more than the guy who set up games for the Chicago White Sox last season, Matt Thornton has been sporting an entirely new look this spring.
It's not the way he has been dressing or even the style of his haircut. Instead, Thornton appears to have gone all time machine on everybody after dropping at least 22 pounds during the winter.
"I'm definitely a younger version of myself," Thornton said. "But it's one of those things where you want to be as good as you can and take care of yourself as much as possible. I can have my fun when my career is over so I'm doing what I can to help the team."
It seems that Thornton was actually able to hide his weight loss when he appeared at SoxFest last month sporting some serious facial hair.
"I hid underneath the beard," said Thornton, who stands 6 feet, 6 inches. "I was about 220 (pounds) when I was at SoxFest but the beard was hiding it. Nobody even said a word about how much weight I had lost. I think I left last season about 240, 242 when the season was over last year.
"I'm now down to a weight that I haven't been at in well over a decade, I'd say. I wouldn't say I was doing it for the weight. It's more of a lifestyle change for me. Over the years, you get your blood work done and bad things are climbing a little bit that you don't want them to climb to."
Heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while not in dangerous areas, were all things Thornton wanted to take aim at lowering.
Instead of simply eating better and getting his exercise, he took more of a detailed approach to better health. First, Thornton underwent a food sensitivity test where his blood was matched up against an estimated 200 foods.
While now avoiding some obvious weight-gain and health factors such as carbohydrates and dairy, Thornton's test also suggested backing off specific things such as tuna, buffalo meat, sweet potatoes and hops, the bittering agent in beer that gives the beverage its pine, citrus and floral tastes and scents.
He says he can eat all day if he's just sticking to the foods his body can handle best. That means that crushing a giant porterhouse steak on occasion isn't out of the question.
"The weight shed off easily, that was no problem," said Thornton, who said that one day after tackling a giant porterhouse he actually lost a pound. "I feel great and I feel healthy. I have a lot more energy, and I sleep great. It's just been a good life change for me."
His regular workout routine before reporting to spring training was a breeze and there has been little to no soreness after his early workouts in Arizona.
"Late in the season last year I had trouble bouncing back after I pitched in a game," Thornton said. "I'd have good results in that game and balls felt good coming out of my hand. And then the next day if I got in a game it seemed like I lost something. The velocity might have been the same and all that, but things weren't as sharp. That's what I want to avoid and this is one way to do it to help with the recovery process."
A new look and essentially a new body is nice and all, but what happens if the on-field results aren't what he's looking for?
"Yeah, if on (Opening Day) that first fastball goes in there at about 87 mph I'm going to go in and probably have a 12-pack of beer and a big ol' loaf of bread or something," he said. "But no, I feel good. I didn't feel weak. In my offseason workouts I was getting as strong as I ever had."
Feeling good has had other effects. He has been so excited about the changes that Thornton sometimes finds it hard to not preach to teammates about his new program.
"I know my blood pressure plummeted," Thornton said. "Slowly but surely over the years it had been climbing, and after doing this for the last 2½ months, my blood was in a healthy range and my heart rate was 45 beats per minute when it was more like 60 before.
"I've cut out dairy and gone to almond milk and actually I like it more. I've cut out wheat and gone to a more gluten-free diet for the most part. I'm pretty good with that but not great. I cut out all sweets and high fructose corn syrup. No candy, deserts, no pies, even through the holidays. That was tough. But it's one of those things that I have told guys the way I feel and the way I have been sleeping to let people know. We'll see what the results are when the season starts."