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Indians taking advantage of Giambi's expertise

MLB.com

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona's cell phone would buzz with a message from Jason Giambi every so often throughout the postseason last fall. Jason Kipnis also would return to his locker to find a message from his former teammate from time to time.

Giambi has not been a part of Cleveland's clubhouse for the past two years, but the retired slugger has kept a close eye on the team that marked the final stop in his 20-year Major League career. This week, Giambi is back in a Tribe uniform as a guest instructor, giving him the chance to be back around a team that he has enjoyed watching blossom into a World Series contender.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona's cell phone would buzz with a message from Jason Giambi every so often throughout the postseason last fall. Jason Kipnis also would return to his locker to find a message from his former teammate from time to time.

Giambi has not been a part of Cleveland's clubhouse for the past two years, but the retired slugger has kept a close eye on the team that marked the final stop in his 20-year Major League career. This week, Giambi is back in a Tribe uniform as a guest instructor, giving him the chance to be back around a team that he has enjoyed watching blossom into a World Series contender.

"The greatest thing that I see from these guys is there's no World Series hangover," Giambi said Wednesday morning. "These guys are hungry. They want to get back. There's no, 'Oh well, we had our chance, and it didn't happen.' They know this team can be great for the next few years."

Giambi has been helping hitters in the batting cage, assisting the coaching staff during on-field drills and spending time with Francona.

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"He's such a special person," Francona said. "Every day he spends here is a bonus for everybody -- myself included. He just has that way about him. I watched him [on Tuesday]. It's not just us. He went over to Oakland, and everybody was hugging him. The grounds crew guy and everybody. That's just the way 'G' is. We're fortunate that he has our uniform on."

Tweet from @MLBastian: Big G has arrived to Tribe camp: pic.twitter.com/dm5eww2gyN

Giambi was a part of the 2013 Indians team that captured an American League Wild Card spot, but that young, upstart Tribe squad had a quick exit from the October stage. Giambi was the veteran voice for that Cleveland team, but he has since watched players Kipnis, Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley develop into leaders on and off the field.

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That is why Giambi is confidence that leadership will not be an issue for the '17 Tribe.

"It's like when I played for the Yankees," Giambi said. "You had myself, [Derek] Jeter, Bernie [Williams]. You have a lot of guys. One guy doesn't have to shoulder that here, which is great. And these guys have grown enough. They know what it takes to get there now."

Giambi etched his name into Indians lore on Sept. 24 during that 2013 season with a walk-off home run against the White Sox. The shot came within the Indians' season-ending, 10-game winning streak, which secured the top Wild Card spot. A mural of Francona's postgame embrace with Giambi still hangs on the wall outside the manager's office at Progressive Field.

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Rajai Davis' game-tying homer in Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs pushed Giambi's blast down a notch on the list of all-time great home runs in Indians history. That was fine by Giambi, who called Game 7 one of the best games he has ever watched.

"I loved it. I played with Raj with the A's," Giambi said. "I was super excited for these guys to have that feeling. ... Once you do it once, you want to keep going."

Back in camp with the Indians, Giambi sees a team capable of doing just that.

"The greatest gift that this team has now," Giambi said, "is they know they can win."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.

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