Giambi 'answers bell' for 20th big league season
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jason Giambi knows that his tank will eventually run out of gas. The aging slugger also knows that he has yet to reach that point in the road, and he is ecstatic to be in camp with the Indians for another Spring Training.
"Year 20. Unbelievable," Giambi said. "I'll take it. It's pretty special."
For the second spring in a row, the 43-year-old Giambi enters camp as a non-roster invitee, vying for a spot on Cleveland's bench as a pinch-hitter and part-time designated hitter. Given how manager Terry Francona gushes over "Big G," it is hard to imagine a scenario in which the long-time big leaguer is not a part of the Opening Day roster.
Even so, Giambi re-signed shortly after last season and once again willingly accepted a Minor League contract. It was a way for the Indians to guard against his age, but also a way for the team to maximize its depth with another, younger player on the 40-man roster.
At this point in his career, Giambi is fine with that approach.
"That's what happens when you're old," Giambi said with a chuckle. "They want a little bit of security, you know? They eventually feel that the rubber band is going to snap. The biggest thing is it doesn't make them make a decision. They can keep some of these young kids and come down to Spring Training and it really opens it up for the ballclub.
"This organization, with who's running it, [general manager] Chris Antonetti and Terry Francona, I don't worry about it."
Last year, Giambi was a critical part of the clubhouse leadership and he performed well for the team in clutch situations. He hit just .183 overall in 71 games, but Giambi launched three pinch-hit homers and posted a .271 average with runners in scoring position and a 1.181 OPS in ninth-inning at-bats.
"It's not about my average," Giambi said. "It's about getting big hits in big situations and what I could bring to the ballclub off the field. I felt like I could still answer the bell when he wanted me to play and do certain things to help this ballclub win. I told him I really was hoping to come back."
Francona certainly was not going to stand in the way of Giambi's return.
"He certainly walks the walk," Francona said. "I'll start on Day 1 and I'll probably be saying it on whatever the last day is, but having him around is a blessing. He's worth his weight in gold. He is so professional and he's been there and done it. That's really the only thing I told him in his meeting, the one-on-one, I said, 'G, the more you talk, the better we are.'"