Giambi set to start on Opening Day
Slugger will man designated hitter spot; Martinez at first
TAMPA, Fla. -- Joe Torre doesn't plan to announce his starting lineup for Sunday night's season opener until Saturday's workout, but the manager indicated on Thursday that Jason Giambi would be his designated hitter against David Wells and the Red Sox.
Giambi missed two games with a tight left hamstring, but he returned to the lineup as the Yankees' designated hitter on Thursday night. After hitting in the cage and doing some light running on Wednesday, Giambi was pronounced ready to go by trainer Gene Monahan.
"It was fine when I was running," said Giambi, who injured himself while running out a double on Monday. "I didn't overdo it. It feels pretty good right now."
Torre said that although Giambi could probably play the field on Sunday, the Yankees didn't want to take any chances with the slugger in the cold weather.
"Whatever is best for the team. Whatever he feels is best," Giambi said. "I feel pretty good right now. I'm taking grounders and, so far, no problem."
With Giambi the likely designated hitter on Sunday, Tino Martinez should get the start at first base. Had Giambi been able to play first, Ruben Sierra could have started as the DH, as his numbers against Wells are far superior to those of Martinez.
"I've been looking forward to Opening Day ever since I signed in January," Martinez said. "It would have been special just to be part of this team and be announced wherever I may be, off the bench or whatever. But to have the opportunity to start the game is even more special. I definitely want to thank Joe for that."
Martinez has not had a productive spring, hitting just .204 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in 21 games. Despite his stats, Martinez says he feels good at the plate and is ready to get the season started.
"Pretty good. Statistically, terrible," Martinez said of his spring. "I didn't get as many hits as I would like, but I'm seeing the ball better and feeling pretty good at the plate. I'm not really worried about results, but how I feel at the plate. I feel like I'm where I should be at, except I need to produce."
Giambi, on the other hand, has been very good this spring, hitting .289 with three homers and five RBIs in 18 games. His average would be even better had he not been robbed on hard-hit balls by several second baseman, but both he and Torre have been pleased with what they have seen.
"I knew I could hit and throw in a structured form, but I didn't know, game-wise, how I was going to be," Giambi said. "I feel pretty good. I'm taking great at-bats, hitting the ball hard, which has always been my trademark."
After a bit of a slow start, Giambi drilled a home run to center field against Boston's John Halama on March 7 in Fort Myers, a swing which he feels helped get him going.
"I felt good with my swing right from the get-go, but that's probably the one that got me started," he said. "The good at-bats started following after that."
One thing that Giambi didn't have to deal with this spring was much negativity, as he was supported by Yankees fans in virtually every ballpark in which he played. Even in Fort Myers, where he was expected to be booed out of the building and taunted for his involvement in the steroids scandal, he received no more boos than any of his teammates.
"I came in with an open mind and I really didn't know what to expect. I don't know if it could have gone any better," Giambi said. "I have a great attitude right now, I feel good and I'm taking good at-bats."
Torre believes that Giambi will be received well in the Bronx on Sunday, as he plays in front of the home crowd for the first time since the revelation that he admitted to using steroids in front of a grand jury in 2003.
"I sense it will be friendly. I really do," Torre said. "He's done well down here and he seems to be relaxed. I'm not saying there isn't going to be a surge of adrenaline flying on Sunday night, but I think the reception will be positive."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.