2006-07-21 / Sports

Giambi's Resurrection Leads The Yankees' Resurgence

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

New York Yankees' Jason Giambi watches his home run in the fifth inning against the Seattle Mariners on July 17. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)New York Yankees' Jason Giambi watches his home run in the fifth inning against the Seattle Mariners on July 17. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) BRONX, NY - If you asked Jason Giambi a year ago where he would have to play, the answer would be a an unquestioned 'first base.' But with the emergence of young Yankees like Andy Phillips, the former American League Most Valuable Player has changed his tune.

He now embraces the role of designated hitter.

"I enjoy playing first," Giambi said. "But this is the best for the situation, because Andy is playing great and it gives him a chance to play and it gives me the extra at bat later in the game, when I would have been taken out. This is the healthiest I felt for a long time. It's been great, and it's going well."

And the number don't lie. Giambi has fully comeback from injuries and steroids scandal to make him a one of the most productive Yankees in the lineup. Currently, the slugger is hitting .264 with 28 homers and 76 RBI with a .610 slugging percentage. He also has walked 66 times to bring his on base percentage to .410 for the season.

Those stats are reflective of the work Giambi did with Yankee hitting coach Don Mattingly. Crediting the former Yankee great for "resurrecting his career," the big lefthanded bat now follows a routine when the Bombers are on the field, so he won't get cold sitting on the bench.

"The biggest thing is thinking about ways of trying to stay loose," Giambi said. "Many times I would not be in the clubhouse but I would sit on the bench or go somewhere and hit. I try to think of things that make me a better DH, so it's gone good so far."

The 35 year-old said he does a lot of hitting drills with Mattingly, but the main thing is his "mindset." Because he is healthy and not just being the extra bat because of injury, Giambi is able to just concentrate on what he does best.

"It's just one of those times," he said. "I am getting my pitch and not fouling it off. I am getting that mistake and I am hitting it. When I am hitting them this year it seems like they are going out of the ballpark."

And since Giambi has accepted the role of DH, young Yankees, like Phillips can get their chance to shine.

Besides Phillips, the veteran has credited Melky Cabrera with getting some big hits and playing the game right. "We have been moving guys along and bunting. We have been also getting the big hits. We are driving them in too; that's the big thing."

The results have been outstanding. The Bombers have won all four games since the second half commenced and now trail Boston by only 1/2 game and are three behind the Chicago White Sox for the wildcard lead.

"We know we have a chance to win every single night," Giambi said. "Our starting pitching has turned it on and our bullpen has been great. So we know every time we are out there, we have a chance to win."And part of the credit for this success has to go to first baseman accepting his role as designated hitter.

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