BOSTON: When veteran slugger Jason Giambi went 0-for-4 Friday night in the Indians’ 8-1 loss to the Red Sox, it extended his hitless streak to 24 at-bats – the third longest slump of his 19-year career.
Considering Giambi interviewed for the Colorado Rockies’ managerial job before signing with the Tribe in February just before spring training began, it’s obvious that he knows his playing days are ultimately numbered.
But manager Terry Francona was adamant before Saturday’s game that just because Giambi is a 42-year old with plenty of gray in his beard, it doesn’t mean he should hang up his cleats this season.
“[Heck] no,” Francona said. “I’ll tell you what, ask me that when he’s 44. I think he’s got himself in a position lately where his bat speed is better. He was battling a [stiff] neck for a while and getting in position where he couldn’t show his bat speed.
In 18 games with the Indians, Giambi is batting a team-worst .150 (9-for-60) with three doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI. He has also struck out 16 times and walked just eight.
But Giambi’s statistics aren’t the only thing that makes him worth having around. Friday, Francona mentioned that Giambi is more like a player/manager, but “he just doesn’t have the title.”
“The saving grace is that before he steps in the batter’s box, he’s already valuable,” Francona said. “I know he’s not happy with where his batting average is. But he’s smart enough to know what he can do.
“He’s not going to sulk around here. You watch, he’ll get some hits and help us win a game. It’s just that he has to put up with the aggravation of looking at his batting average right now. But he’s strong enough to do that.”
Former Indians left-handed pitcher David Huff was claimed on outright waivers by the New York Yankees on Saturday. To make room on the roster, the Yankees designated left-hander Francisco Rondon for assignment.
The Indians had designated Huff for assignment Thursday following his second stint of the season with the big-league club. Huff was the Tribe’s sandwich pick (39th overall selection between the first and second rounds) in the 2006 draft out of UCLA.
Huff appeared in three games with the Indians this season, all in relief. Over that span he was 0-0 with a 15.00 ERA. In his most recent outing Wednesday in the Tribe’s 11-7 loss to Detroit, Huff allowed three runs on four hits in one inning of work.
More than a specialist
A manager never wants to use his bullpen too much in the first game of a four-game series, which is why the three scoreless innings that left-hander Scott Barnes tossed for the Tribe at the end of their 12-3 victory on Friday was a big help in preserving the Indians’ bullpen for the remainder of the series.
“Those three innings he gave us was tremendous,” Francona said of the recently called up Barnes. “It kept our bullpen right in line … He’s got tremendous angle on his pitches because he’s got that funky delivery and that makes him really tough on lefties. So when he spins his slider and locates, he can be tough. Then he threw his changeup to righties and located his fastball away. He was good.”
So good, Francona doesn’t want to limit the Springfield, Ma., native who grew up going to games at Fenway Park, to just being a left-on-left specialist out of the ‘pen.
“You don’t have to limit [Barnes] to just that,” Francona said. “Because of his angle, he’s always going to be tough on lefties. But once he gets consistency with his command by repeating his delivery, he has a chance to be more than that for sure.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/sports.abj.