GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After learning he was going to be a part of the Indians' bench this season, veteran Jason Giambi could not help himself. He walked over to Chris Antonetti and gave Cleveland's general manager a hug.
"I'm truly, truly excited and fired up," Giambi said on Tuesday morning. "I have to admit, I gave Chris a hug afterward. I was totally excited."
There is a catch, though.
The 42-year-old Giambi will begin this season on the 15-day disabled list due to what the team is calling a lower back strain. The issue is not considered serious and both the Indians and Giambi are confident that the aging slugger will be ready to be activated when he becomes eligible on April 9.
In the meantime, Giambi will break camp with the club and spend the season's first seven games as a spectator.
"Being a little bit older, and it's the beginning of the season," Giambi said. "We just want to make sure we get out in front of this, because it's a long season. It's a long Spring Training, so it's just to kind of get off my feet a little bit and take care of it."
When Giambi does return, he will shift into a role as a part-time designated hitter and pinch-hitter for Cleveland. The presence of utility men Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn, who can each play multiple infield spots and outfield corners, combined with a handful of regulars who can man multiple positions, makes it possible for the Indians to carry a player such as Giambi.
All spring, Indians manager Terry Francona has raved about what Giambi brings to the table.
"I don't think he needs to play every day," Francona said. "He wants to be a part of this team and contribute any way he can. That can be in a number of ways, whether it's facing a tough right-hander, or whether it's leadership in the clubhouse. Those things have a way of working out as we get into the season."
Over the past few years with the Rockies, who actually interviewed Giambi for their managerial opening over the offseason, the former American League Most Valuable Player learned how to handle a bench and leadership role. Over 211 games across the past three seasons, Giambi hit .245 with a .370 on-base percentage, 20 home runs, 72 walks and 75 RBIs.
"I really came to love that role when I was in Denver," Giambi said. "I really believe that's how you pass the game on. I'll get some at-bats here and there. I'm just happy I don't have to hit in the ninth all the time against somebody throwing 100 mph. I might get a few at-bats in a DH role."