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Crowd cheers Giambi

Posted: Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Jason Giambi wasted no time beginning his rehabilitation with the New York Yankees' fans after a season wrecked by injury and an offseason filled with steroid allegations.

A little more than 2 hours after arriving at spring training in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, he walked to the outfield end of the New York dugout, stepped onto the field and was greeted with cheers and outstretched pens.

''It's pretty humbling, pretty incredible, to have the support from the fans,'' Giambi said.'' It's pretty awesome.''

When he returned to the clubhouse, Giambi went down a row of pitchers' lockers and shook hands with Randy Johnson. Giambi decided not to give a group apology.

''What I've started doing is going up to the guys face to face,'' he said. ''To me, that meant more than doing a team meeting or addressing the team.''

Giambi also expressed empathy for third baseman Alex Rodriguez, repeatedly ripped by the Boston Red Sox during spring training.

''He's definitely got it rough,'' Giambi said. ''I'm definitely here for him as a teammate. I know what it's like to be on the rough side.''

At Fort Myers, Fla., Boston's bashing of A-Rod took on a conciliatory, even comical, tone when clubhouse clowns Johnny Damon and David Ortiz lightened the mood.

Damon had dubbed his own teammates a bunch of ''idiots'' last season and, on Monday, rattled off one-liners. One was about Rodriguez' early-morning training regimen.

''Waking up 6 in the morning?'' Damon said after his late-afternoon arrival. ''There's been many a nights where I haven't been to bed at 6 in the morning.''

Ortiz said he didn't have time to devote to the controversy.

''I only have one tape at home, the Red Sox one,'' Ortiz said about the Red Sox championship season video. ''I watch it over and over and over and over and I don't even know what's going on here.''

Trot Nixon, who criticized the Yankees third baseman for boasting about his workouts, stood by those comments but said he was ''being stupid and flying off at the mouth'' when he made them Feb. 15.

Yankees bashing spilled over into the Philadelphia Phillies' training camp in Clearwater, Fla., when Kenny Lofton reported and wasted no time in taking a shot at Joe Torre, his manager last season.

''He didn't want me to play. If he wanted me to play, I would have played,'' Lofton said. ''I liked the situation over there, but I wasn't wanted by the manager. Certain managers you respect. Now, I'm in a more relaxed situation.''

A six-time All-Star center fielder, Lofton is coming off his most frustrating season. He hit .275 with seven stolen bases in just 83 games in his only year with the Yankees.

At Peoria, Ariz., Seattle third-baseman Adrian Beltre took his physical and joined his new teammates for a round of batting practice.

Beltre, who signed a $64 million, five-year contract with the Mariners in December, knows the game will be different for him after spending the first seven years of his major league career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

''It's not going to be easy,'' he said of facing AL pitching for the first time. ''It's going to take time to adjust to it. I hope my new teammates are going to help me.''

At Surprise, Ariz., second baseman Alfonso Soriano was given permission to increase his running program as he prepared for his second season with the Texas Rangers.

''Everything looks great with Sori,'' trainer Jamie Reed said. Soriano tore his left hamstring and missed the final two weeks of the 2004 season. He did most of his rehab work on a stationary bike after deciding not to have surgery.

''I just started running about two weeks ago,'' Soriano said. ''It's going to take awhile to get in shape, but I feel good so far.''

At Port St. Lucie, Fla., on the day center fielder Carlos Beltran reported to his first spring with the New York Mets, general manager Omar Minaya met Mike Cameron, who is shifting from center.

''I'm not even thinking about trading Mike Cameron,'' Minaya said. ''Mike Cameron's going to be our right fielder.''

Cameron's name has surfaced in trade rumors since the Mets signed Beltran. Cameron reported to camp Monday and said he never indicated he wanted a trade.

At Tucson, Ariz., new Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin selected Javier Vazquez as his the opening day starter. Vazquez got the nod over fellow right-hander Russ Ortiz, who got the first opening day start of his career last season with the Atlanta Braves.

''It could have been either of them,'' Melvin said. ''It could have been (Shawn) Estes. We have four guys we're going to feel very good about the day we run them out there. Vazquez had a little bit more experience pitching opening day.''

At Lakeland, Fla., new Detroit Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez worked out without a brace on the left knee, which required two operations and cut short his 2004 season.

''My knee feels normal,'' said Ordonez, who spent the first eight years of his career with the Chicago White Sox. ''The only thing I need to get back is my rhythm.''

At Vero Beach, Fla., Brad Penny had his first bullpen session since sustaining a rare nerve injury to his right arm shortly after Los Angeles acquired him from Florida late last season. The right-hander threw about a dozen pitches, which were more like tosses in a game of catch. Penny said it was his idea to go to the mound.

''I just wanted to get up there and pitch,'' he said, adding the pitches were thrown at less than half effort. ''I'll probably do it again Wednesday, but I might do it tomorrow. I didn't plan on doing it (today), so you never know.''



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