Colorado hopes to coax Giambi's return
Rox would like to couple slugger with speedy Young on bench
INDIANAPOLIS -- Rockies manager Jim Tracy is keeping in touch with veteran Jason Giambi, just in case he wants a reprise of his pinch-hit role during the team's late push to the playoffs last year.
Tracy said Thursday that he called Giambi knowing that the veteran would prefer to join an American League team as a first baseman and designated hitter. But Giambi hit .292 in mostly pinch-hit duty, and parlayed experience and leadership with Colorado in September.
"Honesty is the best way to go," said Tracy, whose team has been looking at right-handed hitting bench players, but could adjust if Giambi falls its way. "That's the way I know how we treat them. Is there a job out there for him with 400 ABs [at-bats], and if there is, he's more than likely going to take it. That's what he wants to do, God bless him. But if not, you hope that he would consider coming back and being a part of our situation."
The Rockies didn't bring in any players from the outside during the MLB Winter Meetings, but monitoring Giambi is part of the Colorado's plan to be patient, or creative if necessary. The Rox also are asking speedy prospect Eric Young Jr., used as a second baseman and center fielder, to learn the corner outfield positions and third base.
The Rockies have been seeking a right-handed hitter who could play multiple positions, but Tracy said the Rockies could fit Giambi becuase of his versatility.
Right-handed hitting Ryan Spilborghs will need to bounce back from a subpar 2009, but Spilborghs acknowledged he tried to do too much last year and will return to his comfortable swing of the past. Adding versatility for the switch-hitting Young could help remake the bench to help Giambi make more sense.
Bringing back Giambi could be a boon for left-handed hitting outfielder Seth Smith, who saw his starting opportunities increase when Giambi arrived because Tracy didn't have to hold Smith out for a late pinch-hit opportunity.
Other bench options -- Jamey Carroll, Nick Green, Melvin Mora and Robb Quinlan -- hit right-handed. But Tracy hasn't forgotten the production and influence that Giambi offered in September.
"This is the neat thing in regard to players: Whenever they're very special for you and they show you the kind of character and makeup you'd like to see in building a framework as far as an organization is concerned, the door is never closed," Tracy said.
No matter what the Rockies do with the utility position that Giambi and the right-handed hitters could fill, one of the biggest issues of Spring Training is whether Young can fill a utility role.
Young, 24, a second baseman by trade who had starting opportunities in center when Dexter Fowler missed time with a bruised right shin, hit .246 with a home run and an RBI, and went 4-for-8 on steal attempts in his first Major League action. He played briefly in the Dominican Republic this winter, but still has work to do.
Carlos Gonzalez was electric in center field in limited duty. He can play all three outfield spots, but will be the first option in center when Fowler is not in the lineup. That means Young's outfield work could be at the corners, rather than in center. If he learns third base, Young could back up Ian Stewart.
"What is our plan of attack to keep this kid involved as much as I like keeping all our players involved?" Tracy said. "Then it's getting the player comfortable and not wasting his time.
"It's not to say he can't play center, but he's not going to play as much in the early part of the season. Let's get him in a place where has the opportunity to a little bit comfortable. Create versatility but create it in the areas where he knows he's going to show up."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.