Giambi wishes Opening Day were here
Yankees slugger says club's offense is ready for season
TAMPA, Fla. -- Pitchers, these two weeks are for you.
At least that's the mind-set of Jason Giambi, who slugged a mammoth grand slam on Sunday off the Pirates' Zach Duke, leading the Yankees to an 8-1 Grapefruit League victory at Legends Field.
After the game, Giambi said New York's offense is ready to roll the calendar forward to Opening Day. Twelve more exhibition games remain on the slate, so the hitters will have to busy themselves with a few more free at-bats.
"We can definitely break camp right now," Giambi said. "The hard part is to fight through and get some intensity and a little adrenaline flowing. You're basically here now for the pitchers."
Though the 36-year-old slugger has three home runs this spring, Giambi ended Sunday afternoon batting just .206. He hasn't been concerned by a spotty showing thus far; in fact, Giambi is elated by how good his surgically repaired left wrist has felt in his plate appearances.
Yankees manager Joe Torre said that Giambi has looked "free and easy" and said that he has been very comfortable with his projected designated hitter, believing that "his at-bats are right where they should be."
Torre said his coaches have been comparing data on at-bats from appearances at this point last season, up and down the lineup, and they compare favorably to March 2006. That's encouraging, but for hitters ready to sniff out the regular season, tough luck.
"They're going to get a little bored here, but they understand the last week is when you have to start locking yourself in and getting mentally ready for the season," Torre said.
Giambi wasn't expecting to do much this spring, having undergone a procedure to repair ligament damage in the wrist after the Yankees' playoff elimination last October. He has been hitting the ball hard and feeling no pain, which in itself is a minor achievement.
"I'm excited where I'm at," Giambi said. "I thought it'd be a little bit longer where I'd have to get my swing back a little bit, and get a little more work. Everything's gone faster than expected, no doubt about it."
Giambi said that his fourth-inning home run off Duke was a good indication of his rehabilitated stroke. Giambi turned on an up-and-in fastball and launched it inside the right-field foul pole, driving it through a stiff wind and over the wall.
"That tells me I'm swinging the bat good, when I can keep that ball fair," Giambi said. "Especially with that wind pushing it foul, when I can stay inside the baseball like that and keep it fair down the line, that's exactly what I'm looking for."
Giambi has joked often this spring about "letting the 'Big G' loose," which is his personal term for the afternoons he gets to take on the challenge of playing first base.
The first time he did so, Giambi took Don Mattingly aside and kidded the Yankees' bench coach about taking the blanket off the horse and letting it run around outside the stable.
The Yankees aren't asking much defensively of Giambi this season; not with former Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner Doug Mientkiewicz locked in to see the majority of innings at first base, plus Josh Phelps and Andy Phillips competing to win a reserve role.
Still, "Big G" is remaining prepared for unexpected possibilities. He wasn't supposed to play as much first base as he did in 2006 -- 64 starts, compared to 70 at designated hitter -- and said he is entering the season with that same mind-set.
If Giambi winds up being used as a designated hitter more, he's fine with that. But if not, at least he'll be ready.
"The best thing to do is just go as if you're going to be in there," Giambi said. "I think I could see anywhere from half [the games at DH] and half [at first base]. You've got to be prepared to play.
"I still go out there and prepare. I want to. They know I've done it for so long that I'll be ready. When you haven't played for a while, you have to get the speed of it back. When you have, that doesn't take very long at all."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.