NEW YORK -- John Olerud isn't sure whether he'll be wearing a Yankees uniform come Opening Day 2005, but the first baseman isn't ruling out that option.
Olerud, who joined the Yankees on Aug. 3, batted .280 with four home runs and 26 RBIs for New York in 49 games, showing the baseball world that he had something left to contribute after being released by the Mariners on July 27.
"I had a great experience here. The guys treated me great," Olerud said. "You never know what is going to happen in the offseason, what teams will show interest. We'll have to wait and see."
Olerud's bruised left foot is healing, evidenced by his two-inning stint in Game 7 on Wednesday night.
"It's sore, but they said from the results that I'm not going to hurt it anymore," he said. "I felt like I could hobble around at first base. You don't have to run too much, and I thought I could swing the bat."
Unlike his last trip to free agency, Olerud is open to playing on the East Coast, 3,000 miles away from his family in Washington.
One big sticking point for Olerud could be playing time. Jason Giambi is expected to be at full strength come the spring, making him the likely starting first baseman. That would leave Olerud as a backup if he returns to the Yankees, giving him a tough decision to make if the Yankees pursue him.
"That's something I'll need to decide, assuming I have choices," Olerud said. "It's definitely a lot more fun to play on a winning team. That's for sure. That would be an important factor."
"Johnny was terrific for us," said general manager Brian Cashman. "He was a nice addition. He's a gamer who did a great job."
Jason Giambi / 1B
Weight: 225 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
Hope for Giambi: Jason Giambi's 2004 season was a nightmare, interrupted by an intestinal parasite and a benign tumor that cost him 82 games in the regular season, as well as the entire postseason.
But the Yankees expect that the slugger will be back in shape for the 2005 campaign, and are proceeding accordingly.
"We have to expect that he'll be back, and be back at full force," Cashman said. "It's no different than any other winter, when you have one of your starters [who] has elbow or shoulder surgery and they tell you he's going to be back. All indications are that he'll be healthy for Spring Training. If that's the case, then there's no reason for him not to be back at his old form."
Manager Joe Torre was impressed with Giambi's work ethic, especially late in the season when things looked bleak.
"I wanted to get a sense if he wanted to pack it in for the rest of the year," said Torre, recalling a late-September conversation. "It's been an emotional year for him, starting in the spring with all the questions and then the illnesses. To his credit, he didn't want to."
New York is believed to be one of the teams that will make a play for Carlos Beltran when he hits the free-agent market, but to bring him in, the Yankees would need Giambi to play first base on a daily basis to free up the DH spot for Bernie Williams.
Although both Olerud and Tony Clark are defensively superior to Giambi at first base, Torre believes that Giambi can give the Yankees what they need at the position.
"We proved to ourselves this year that if pitching is going to be important, then defense will be important," Torre said. "Jason, when he's in shape, he has the glovework and quickness over there. It will be what we see in Spring Training and what our options are."
Waiting game: Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, whose contract is up at the end of the month, will likely wait a couple of weeks before deciding whether he will return for a 10th season with Torre in the Bronx.
"I'm hoping Mel comes back. I need him by my side," Torre said. "I trust him, and he's a man beyond men, not only with the pitching aspect, but just being there for his pitchers and for me. He's solid as a rock."
Should Stottlemyre decide not to return, two candidates to replace him would be Ron Guidry and Neil Allen.
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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