GOODYEAR, Ariz.: Indians designated hitter/first baseman Jason Giambi could open the season on the disabled list for the second consecutive year.
But the way manager Terry Francona reacted to the suggestion that a fractured rib keeping Giambi out three to four weeks might jeopardize his roster spot indicated that is likely not the case.
“Of making the club?” Francona said, sounding incredulous. “I don’t know. We’ll see how quickly he progresses. I don’t think Opening Day is the end all-be all. We want him to get better so he can help us.”
An MRI Wednesday revealed Giambi was hurt when he was hit by a cut fastball from Chicago Cubs’ right-hander Edwin Jackson in the third inning Friday at Cubs Park in Mesa. He suffered a small nondisplaced fracture on his right side, which an X-ray and ultrasound failed to detect.
It was presumed that the injury could open the door for a player on the bubble like outfielders Nyjer Morgan and Jeff Francoeur and infielder Elliot Johnson to make the 25-man roster going into Opening Day March 31 at the Oakland Athletics.
That could be the case, at least temporarily. But Francona places as much value on Giambi’s role as a mentor as he does on his performance.
Asked what Giambi being sidelined does to the roster, Francona said, “At the moment, nothing. We’re not leaving camp.
“Sometimes the challenge is not just what G is doing, but also putting a team together. The object is to be better than other teams. He’s very special. But he doesn’t play a position and doesn’t play all the time, so you have to make sure you complement that. I think we can do that for sure, but you have to think about that.”
Giambi didn’t seem worried about the injury hurting his chances of sticking with the Indians for a second season, even though he’s signed to a minor-league, free-agent contract.
“That’s going to take care of itself,” he said. “Tito said, ‘Don’t worry about it, just get well.’
“One more year together with the guys, coming together as a ballclub … I think I can still offer what I did last year and maybe even more. That’s the exciting part of what I’ve really grown into, that mentor. That helps me.”
When it comes to being hit by pitches, Giambi ranks 11th on the all-time list with 179. So even though he picked up the ball and flipped it back to Jackson, he knew this time it might be serious. Signed by the Athletics in 1992, Giambi said it was the first time he’s had a rib injury.
“I wasn’t going to let him know it hurt,” Giambi said of Jackson. “It was a cutter in and it kind of got me underneath the pad. I usually can get my elbow pad down, I just didn’t get it down in time. I’ve been hit a gazillion times and I just kind of knew this one was different.
“At least it’s not displaced, which is huge. [The doctor] said, ‘You’ve got to shut it down, let it heal a little bit. It’s going to be sore, but once you get the trauma part out of it, you can play on it.’ He gave me a timeline of seven, 10, 14 [days]. It’s whenever I feel like I can go. He said guys play with it all the time.”
Giambi started the 2013 season on the disabled list with a lower back strain and played his first game April 12. He believes this could be a similar situation.
“I didn’t take any rehab assignment. I think I hit a home run my second game back,” he said. “It doesn’t take me very long to get ready.
“I’m not discouraged. Obviously it’s not the best time right now. But I’ve had my back against the wall a few other times. I’m not worried about it.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.