SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Now that he understands the job as a pinch-hitter in the National League, Jason Giambi likes it.
Giambi, 40, was approached by several American League teams, the Rays among them, but signed a Minor League deal to return to the Rockies, a team he joined late in 2009. Last year, his first full season with the club, Giambi batted .244 with six home runs -- two in game-winning fashion at Coors Field -- and 35 RBIs in 176 at-bats.
Don't be fooled by the Minor League contract. Giambi is part of the Rockies' plan as long as he proves to be healthy. The Rockies were protecting several young prospects on their 40-man roster, but a spot can be arranged for Giambi -- as the prime left-handed pinch-hitter -- in time for the season.
Right-handed-hitting Ty Wigginton can spell left-swinging Todd Helton at first base. Last year, it was less of a fit with Helton and Giambi both swinging from the left -- the Rockies had to shoehorn Melvin Mora into first-base duty, and it took Mora several games to find his stride defensively. Giambi said he is prepared to play first, just in case.
Helton, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Ryan Spilborghs asked Giambi to consider returning, and general manager Dan O'Dowd and assistant GM Bill Geivett made it clear he was wanted.
"I love the organization, what they represent," a leaner-than-last-year Giambi said upon arriving at camp on Sunday, two days before the first full-squad workout. "It's a good role for me. I had a great time doing it last year and I'm going to be more comfortable now that I have a year under my belt.
"We had some teams I talked to, but it was a better fit for me coming here. I think we were close last year. If we didn't have as many injuries last year, we'd have definitely been in the playoffs. There's no doubt about it. The Giants ended up winning the World Series. That could've very easily been us."
It wasn't until the Rockies reached the Interleague Play portion of the schedule that Giambi found his comfort zone. Giambi, who finished last season with a sore left biceps tendon but has healed with rest, will stay with the batting practice routine he developed as last season progressed in hopes of being sharp when the season begins.
"I took more time in the cage and hit off the machine a little bit more, just to see some velocity," Giambi said. "I know what I need to do to be prepared to hit in the ninth to start off the season."