GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jason Giambi knows that his tank will eventually run out of gas. The aging slugger also knows that he has yet to reach that point in the road, and he is ecstatic to be in camp with the Indians for another Spring Training.
"Year 20. Unbelievable," Giambi said. "I'll take it. It's pretty special."
For the second spring in a row, the 43-year-old Giambi enters camp as a non-roster invitee, vying for a spot on Cleveland's bench as a pinch-hitter and part-time designated hitter. Given how manager Terry Francona gushes over "Big G," it is hard to imagine a scenario in which the long-time big leaguer is not a part of the Opening Day roster.
Even so, Giambi re-signed shortly after last season and once again willingly accepted a Minor League contract. It was a way for the Indians to guard against his age, but also a way for the team to maximize its depth with another, younger player on the 40-man roster.
At this point in his career, Giambi is fine with that approach.
"That's what happens when you're old," Giambi said with a chuckle. "They want a little bit of security, you know? They eventually feel that the rubber band is going to snap. The biggest thing is it doesn't make them make a decision. They can keep some of these young kids and come down to Spring Training and it really opens it up for the ballclub.
"This organization, with who's running it, [general manager] Chris Antonetti and Terry Francona, I don't worry about it."
Last year, Giambi was a critical part of the clubhouse leadership and he performed well for the team in clutch situations. He hit just .183 overall in 71 games, but Giambi launched three pinch-hit homers and posted a .271 average with runners in scoring position and a 1.181 OPS in ninth-inning at-bats.
"It's not about my average," Giambi said. "It's about getting big hits in big situations and what I could bring to the ballclub off the field. I felt like I could still answer the bell when he wanted me to play and do certain things to help this ballclub win. I told him I really was hoping to come back."
Francona certainly was not going to stand in the way of Giambi's return.
"He certainly walks the walk," Francona said. "I'll start on Day 1 and I'll probably be saying it on whatever the last day is, but having him around is a blessing. He's worth his weight in gold. He is so professional and he's been there and done it. That's really the only thing I told him in his meeting, the one-on-one, I said, 'G, the more you talk, the better we are.'"
Santana's hard work evident at hot corner
CLEVELAND -- It was only one infield workout, and far from a game-type simulation, but Indians manager Terry Francona came away impressed by Carlos Santana's showing at third base on Monday morning.
During Cleveland's first full-squad workout, which included having Santana work exclusively as an infielder, the catcher-turned-third baseman lined up with Lonnie Chisenhall at the hot corner. Francona said it was not by design, but the manager was the one hitting a stream of ground balls to both third basemen.
Francona said the work Santana has put in behind the scenes is more important than what onlookers observed during the infield practice.
"From the minute we have laid eyes on him, he has been nothing but diligent," Francona said. "I mean, staying at it to the point where he's taking a weird-sided, crazy super ball back to his room at night to work on side to side. He has worked so hard just to get to this point.
"I'm so proud of him already just for what he's done. It's going to be interesting going forward."
The rubber ball Francona mentioned has a handful of bumps that make the direction of its ricochet unpredictable when thrown. Entering the spring, Santana had already logged roughly 30 games at third base during winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
"He's very athletic," Francona said. "And he's aware that, just because he wants to play third, doesn't mean he's going to play third. We have a responsibility to our team to put our best team on the field. That's what we're going to do. The fact that we're talking about this with Carlos is a huge compliment to him."
As for Chisenhall, whose career in the big leagues has been riddled with inconsistency, Francona said the third baseman understands the situation.
"[I told him] the truth, which is that we're a better team with him on it, we believe," Francona said. "But we want him to earn it. That's being very truthful. I think he kind of agrees with it. If players play well, and they're good, we'll find places for them."
Indians begin 2014 journey with first workout
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The sun was shining and the players were laughing. Spring Training finally was in full swing on Monday morning, when the Indians ran through their first full-squad workout.
Tribe manager Terry Francona loved every second of it.
"I missed these guys, man," Francona said. "I was so happy to be back."
As is standard spring protocol, Francona gathered the entire team prior to the workout and gave his first speech of the season in the clubhouse. Even following a 92-win, Wild Card-clinching campaign, Francona said the message was nearly the same as it is every year.
Simply put, Francona stresses the importance of focusing on the task at hand each day and having high expectations no matter the circumstances.
"The way we feel about the game never changes," Francona said. "But I feel it's important, especially for new guys, to hear it and make sure everybody is on the same page and the players alll know what we expect. We start to form those bonds and the chemistry and the personality of the team. We start today."
One item that Francona said he mentioned both in individual meetings and the team meeting is a statistic that stems from last spring. The manager noted that 49 of the players he had a meeting with during Spring Training a year ago reached the Major Leagues at some point last season, either with the Indians or with another team.
The point of bringing up that number to players is to show that there is more to a 162-game season than making the Opening Day roster.
"I think it's a very important statistic," Francona said. "It shows those guys in that room that we're not just talking, that that is going to happen. It has happened and it could happen again."
Quote to note
"I think everybody walks into Spring Training, no matter who you are, saying, 'We're going to go win a World Series.' That's the whole meaning. But, literally, we have an opportunity. It's not unthinkable to say, 'These guys have got a chance.'"
• Indians starter Justin Masterson said on Monday that he hopes to be able to avoid his arbitration hearing, which is scheduled for Thursday. The pitcher noted that his agent had talked to Cleveland on Sunday and Monday to continue negotiations on a one-year deal for 2014. If the case goes to a hearing, a panel must decided between a salary of $11.8 million or $8.05 million.
• Former Indians manager Mike Hargrove was in camp on Monday, along with former Tribe players Kenny Lofton and Carlos Baerga. Francona said he told Hargrove to "get in and get dirty," in terms of offering instruction or helping out during workouts.
"Being a former manager, I think he's very cognizant of not wanting to do too much," Francona said. "I told him he can't do that here. He has carte blanche to move around. There's been so many years of baseball in what he's done, I wanted to make sure he knew that he is very welcome, as much as he wants."
• Indians infielder Jose Ramirez (left thumb surgery in December) has progressed to taking front flips in the batting cage, according to the team. It is estimated that Ramirez will need seven to 10 days before taking batting practice on the field.
• Indians first baseman Bryan LaHair, who had a left wrist debridement procedure in September, has been cleared for all baseball activities with the exception of hitting. LaHair is hitting off a tee in his progression toward batting practice.