Giambi brings experience, wisdom to Rockies

February 24, 2010 | 10:11 pm  

Jason Giambi went to big league spring training for the first time in 1993 with Oakland. His locker was next to that of Goose Gossage, who was then 41 and setting up for A’s closer Dennis Eckersley. “I sat there for six weeks scared to death of him,” Giambi said of Gossage. “We still talk about it to this day. It was awesome. He loved it. He was old school: You’re a rookie. You shut your (bleeping) mouth.”

Giambi remembers at the end of the spring, Gossage told Giambi it had been a wonderful six weeks, the reason being Giambi simply sat there, listened and didn’t have any sense of privilege.

That ’93 A’s team also included the likes of Rickey Henderson, Terry Steinbach, Dave Henderson and Mark McGwire.

Giambi was a protege of McGwire’s and became a close friend. And after McGwire, who is entering his first season as the Cardinals hitting coach, apologized last month for using steriods, Giambi said he called McGwire.

“Just told him that I loved him, and I know it’s hard,” Giambi said. “I hope things are great now for him.”

Indeed, Giambi knows just how hard. In February 2005, while with the Yankees, Giambi said he was sorry. He didn’t specifically say what he was sorry for, because he had been advised not to comment on the ongoing BALCO investigation where in testimony to a federal grand jury, Giambi had admitted to using steroids before and after joining the Yankees in 2002 after signing a seven-year, $120 million contract.

Calls from Todd Helton and manager Jim Tracy helped woo Giambi back to the Rockies once there was no full-time DH job available with an American League team capable of contending. Giambi, who turned 39 on Jan. 8, is a presence at the plate and in the clubhouse, where he adds life and enthusiasm. He has 409 career home runs, including two last year with the Rockies, but Helton said it’s not the 400 home runs but the way Giambi takes batting practice that is most impressive.

“He’s not out there launching bombs, which he can,” Helton said. “He’s working on stuff and you saw it when he came up to pinch hit; his approach was just like everybody’s should be. Stay back, (hit the ball) up the middle, the other way.

“I think it was good for everybody to see a guy who’s got that much power still taking the right approach in practice and in the game.”

Read more about Giambi in Jack’s report for the Associated Press here.