Giambi fine with position shift
Veteran slugger embraces DH move as logical decision
TAMPA, Fla. -- Jason Giambi arrived at Yankees camp on Monday, his hair tinged with blond streaks, wearing a rock-style T-shirt and raving about his experiences at the NBA All-Star Game festivities in Las Vegas.
Giambi's personality has not changed, but his job description has. The 36-year-old said he spoke recently with manager Joe Torre and is fine with the team's decision to shift Giambi to a full-time designated hitter.
"It's more important for me to win and be in a World Series," Giambi said. "Whatever the team needs, that's what's going to be best."
While Giambi said he still enjoys playing first base, he acknowledged the superior defensive abilities of veteran Doug Mientkiewicz, who signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with New York over the winter.
"I think it's going to be great," Giambi said. "The guy is a Gold Glove first baseman. Joe and I sat down a little bit and said we'll determine [playing time] like we did last year."
The Yankees are entertaining the idea of carrying an extra first baseman in either Josh Phelps or Andy Phillips, serving as the right-handed-batting half of a platoon, which means Giambi's innings in the field could grow scarce.
Still, Giambi plans to enter Spring Training as though he expects to play the field. Statistically, Giambi has been a better hitter when he has been used defensively, batting .289 (58 hits in 201 at-bats) last season in games he played first base and .224 (54 hits in 241 at-bats) when utilized as a DH.
"Joe knows that I hit a lot better when I do [play first base], but at the same time, you think about it from the team's perspective," Giambi said. "I'm getting older."
Giambi said he has seen progress in his adjustment to the role of designated hitter and is primed to continue the transition.
"I'm getting older and taking a pounding," Giambi said. "I got a little bit better last year at being able to DH. Whatever they need."
While Giambi is not considered a rehab player entering Spring Training -- the Yankees have just one, non-roster catcher Raul Chavez -- he is expected to start slowly.
Giambi finished the year batting .253 with 37 home runs and 113 RBIs, but required three cortisone shots in the wrist last September -- none of which completely relieved his pain.
Giambi's sixth season in pinstripes opens with careful dry swings, which he has done since early February. Hitting off a tee and live batting practice will follow, and Giambi's pursuit of October can officially commence.
Since Giambi signed a seven-year, $120 million contract after the 2001 season, the Yankees have reached the playoffs each season and played in one World Series. A championship ring has yet proved elusive.
Pointing to acquisitions like that of left-hander Andy Pettitte, whom Giambi believes will solidify the pitching staff, the slugger is banking that this will be the campaign when it finally comes.
"Everybody in that clubhouse wants to win," Giambi said. "Even though Derek Jeter has four World Series rings, he wants more, and you can tell how hungry he is every year when he shows up.
"We all want to be that guy who has four World Series rings. It's not a question of desire."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.