Giambi has broken rib, likely to miss opener
Indians' veteran slugger and clubhouse presence injured when hit by pitch
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jason Giambi, no longer the MVP-caliber player he once was but ever a presence in the Indians' clubhouse, learned Thursday that he has a broken rib and will likely be sidelined beyond Opening Day.
Giambi, 43, is a non-roster invitee who hit .183 in a limited bench role for the Tribe last season. He's appeared in three games this spring, going 0-for-7 with two walks. But the five-time All-Star and 2000 American League MVP Award winner's leadership in the clubhouse was integral in Cleveland's rise in the AL Central last year, making him a likely candidate for a 2014 roster spot.
"The good side of this is 'G' is fully engaged in getting better as quick as he can, and in the meantime he'll help everybody else like he always does," manager Terry Francona said. "That's why we try to evaluate everybody to the best of our ability, so if things do happen, if you do need a Plan B or a Plan C, you have it."
Giambi was hit by an Edwin Jackson pitch in the third inning of Cleveland's game against the Cubs last Friday and has not played since. X-rays didn't detect anything, but when Giambi continued to experience discomfort, an MRI revealed the non-displaced fracture on his right side.
"I've been hit a gazillion times, and I just kind of knew this one was different," Giambi said.
Francona said the slugger will go without activity for a "number of days" and receive treatment. When he's asymptomatic, Giambi can resume workouts and then baseball activities. The team expects recovery to take three to four weeks. Opening Day is March 31 in Oakland.
For the second consecutive year, Giambi signed a one-year Minor League contract that included in invitation to Spring Training and a good chance to make the club.
"He made such a huge impact on our team," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said at the time of this year's signing. "He embodies everything we're looking for in our players -- his professionalism, the way he works, the way he prepares for a game, the teammate that he is, the energy he brings to the team and the clubhouse."
Giambi began last season on the disabled list with a strained lower back, but the club purchased his contract to be able to put him on the DL. It's unknown if they would make a similar move this time.
"The thing that I can do is bring as much off the field as I can on the field to the players," Giambi said. "That's the exciting part of what I've really grown into is that mentor [role], and that helps me. I take pride in that and look at that as a definite positive. But I don't worry about things I can't control. I'm going to always do what's best for the team, like I've always done my whole career. I'm excited. I'm still here."
Beyond his nine home runs and 31 RBIs last year, Giambi posted a 1.181 OPS in the ninth inning, the eighth-highest mark among the 368 Major League hitters with at least 20 ninth-inning plate appearances. He also ranked 14th in the AL (among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances) with an average of one RBI per six at-bats. The veteran hit .271 with a .960 OPS with runners in scoring position.
Giambi will be remembered in Cleveland for his walk-off home run against the White Sox on Sept. 24, when he launched a two-run pinch-hit shot off closer Addison Reed to help the Tribe claim its fifth win in the team's season-ending 10-game streak that clinched a Wild Card berth. In doing so, Giambi broke his own record as the oldest player in baseball history to hit a walk-off home run.
In 19 seasons spent with the A's, Yankees, Rockies and Indians, Giambi has posted a career slash line of .278/.400/.519, with 438 home runs, 1,357 walks and 1,436 RBIs.
"I came in great swinging the bat, taking great at-bats," Giambi said. "One more year together with the guys, coming together as a ballclub, I'm really excited. I think I can still offer what I did last year, and maybe even more."