CLEVELAND: Jason Giambi will turn 43 over the winter, but he doesn’t sound like someone headed for the retirement home anytime soon. Giambi made it clear after the Indians’ 4-0 wild-card loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday he’d like to play again next year.
Given the way Tribe manager Terry Francona has raved about Giambi’s leadership throughout the season, there seems a decent chance Giambi could return next season.
“I feel great. I would love to be part of this,” Giambi said. “I love the direction this ballclub is going. We’ll see, though. We’ll see what the universe has to offer.”
Giambi interviewed for the Colorado Rockies’ managerial job last winter before Walt Weiss was given the job. When the Indians called, Giambi was eager to keep playing.
“What happened in Colorado, that was kind of off the cuff,” Giambi said. “It was kind of a rare situation. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was a huge learning experience for me to see something after baseball.”
When the Indians brought Giambi to spring training this season, Francona made him no promises. He made it clear the only way Giambi could make the team was if the Indians had enough flexibility on their bench to carry a part-time designated hitter.
Since the Indians control both Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn again next season, they might be able to find a place for Giambi again.
“I feel like a manager here,” Giambi said. “I had fun helping the kids out and being a part of that. Tito is so incredible to play for to give me that opportunity where I could kind of shape some careers and be part of it. It was special to me.”
Despite his meager .225 average during the regular season, Lonnie Chisenhall was the only hitter in the Indians’ lineup Wednesday qualified to offer batting tips.
Chisenhall had singles in each of his three at-bats off Rays starter Alex Cobb and finished 3 for 4 batting out of the No. 9 spot, making him one of the few offensive bright spots.
Chisenhall hadn’t started since last Wednesday at Chicago, but he put up some good at-bats in his only other game against Cobb early this season, so Francona started him to help balance the lineup.
“You have those guys where you see the ball well and you put up good swings, and you have those guys that you spin around and fall down in the batter’s box,” Chisenhall said. “Fortunately I was seeing him pretty well tonight. Unfortuantely, we weren’t able to get that win.”
Chisenhall and Aviles worked their way into a platoon at third base, and with the Indians facing a steady string of lefties late in the season, Chisenhall sat most of the final week.
“We refer to ourselves as a switch-hitting third baseman,” Chisenhall said. “We’re both ready to go.”
Players on both sides noticed the electricity inside Progressive Field. After a season where the Indians ranked near the bottom of the league in attendance, a sellout crowd of 43,579 dressed in red and twirled white towels most of the night.
“From the second I stepped out on the field tonight to go warm up, the crowd was electric,” Cobb said. “I haven’t experienced anything like that in the past.
“When you’re not asked to do anything, it’s easy to just kind of look around and enjoy it. But when you actually have to mentally be present and think and execute pitches, it’s difficult.”
Michael Bourn, who pleaded with Indians fans late in the season for stronger crowds, made it a point to praise the crowd before he was even asked about it.
“I want to say thank you to the fans for coming out,” he said. “They showed their support and gave it all they had and were behind us the whole way, stayed the whole game. All I can say is I appreciate that.”
Indians manager Terry Francona is hopeful the support will carry into next season.
“I wish we could have given them a better game,” he said. “The support was fantastic. It was pretty awesome to see how it can be.”
After further review…
This was the Indians’ first experience with the new postseason format, which forces the two wild-card teams into a one-game playoff. The loss reinforced to a couple of the veterans how much more important it is now to win the division.
“That’s why the emphasis on winning the division is strong,” Bourn said. “It’s always going to be hard for us because of the Tigers, but you have to put that emphasis on it because you’ve only got one game and anybody can win one game.”
Justin Masterson said a one-game playoff is better than no postseason life.
“It’s better than no games. It could be that we play all season and we’re not doing anything,” he said. “I’d definitely rather have (one game). It’s exciting. You have one game to leave it out there and see what you got. And for us, tonight, it wasn’t enough. (But) I think it’s great.
“If you don’t like it, then you’ve got to win your division.”
The Indians were shut out in a postseason game for the sixth time in franchise history (86 total games) and the first time since a 4-0 loss to the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the ALCS in 1998. … The Indians have lost four consecutive postseason games (dating back to the 2007 ALCS vs. Boston), which matches a franchise record. … Alex Cobb became the third Rays pitcher to throw at least six scoreless innings in a postseason start. Matt Moore and current Indians pitcher Scott Kazmir are the other two. … After he left the postgame interview room, the first person Francona saw was his father, Tito. He greeted him with a hug.