Giambi's impact not only with bat

Giambi's impact not only with bat

PHILADELPHIA -- For seven of the previous nine seasons, Jason Giambi was front-and-center at playoff time. But Giambi's first postseason game in a Rockies uniform came and went without him ever stepping to the plate.

But being a part of a playoff team is always special, so Giambi is appreciating where he is while he waits for his chance to have an impact.

Pulse
Rockies at a glance
2009 record: 92-70
2008 record: 74-88
Clinched NL Wild Card
NLDS matchup:
Rockies at Phillies
Postseason tix: Information

WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
Gonzalez: Bat on fire
Bullpen: Hitting stride
Gonzalez: Rewarding Rox
Giambi: Impact beyond bat
Tulowitzki: Ready for return
Cook: Returns right on time
Barmes: Credit to Tracy
Marquis: Living in moment
Ubaldo: Big-game pitcher
Helton/Giambi: Leaders
Stewart: Emerging star
Tracy: Quiet leader
Street: Mutual admiration
De La Rosa: Earning trust
Ubaldo: Sending a message
Helton: Resurgent slugger
Morales: On the attack
Tulowitzki: Vigorous finish

After serving as everyday first baseman for the Athletics and Yankees, Giambi is the Rockies' power left-handed bat off the bench. With Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee dominating the Rockies in complete-game fashion for a 5-1 Phillies victory in Wednesday's Game 1 of the National League Division Series, there was no need for Giambi. But his time could come at any moment.

In the meantime, Giambi is lending his experience by reminding younger teammates to cherish where they are.

"All the trips to the playoffs are special in their own right, because of your teammates," Giambi said. "You might not have the same team the next year.

"That's the one thing I'm trying to tell these guys. What they have in this room is something special, so do not let that get away or take it for granted. This might not happen every year."

No matter how much Giambi, 38, factors into the NLDS, it's had to imagine the Rockies here without him.

Giambi signed with the Athletics during the offseason to spend most of his time as their designated hitter, but injuries forced him into more starts at first base than he could handle. He hit .193 in 83 games before the A's released him in August, but he signed with the Rockies and played six games at Triple-A Colorado Springs before joining the Major League roster on Sept. 1.

Giambi's Rockies resume includes game-winning hits in his first two games with the club, and later a pinch-hit single that set up a game-winning sacrifice fly. That's not too bad, considering that the Rockies qualified for the Wild Card by four games over the Giants.

Giambi said he marvels at the achievements of his new club.

From 2002 to 2008, Giambi played for the Yankees, who are perennial playoff contenders because they can afford to bid on top free agents. Now the Rockies are expecting to go to the postseason every year, even though their budget is far smaller than that of the Yankees.

"I can see what these guys have done," Giambi said. "Their backs have been against the wall all year. It's an incredible story, to come down the stretch and get themselves in the playoffs. And [manager] Jim Tracy, he's definitely the backbone of this team.

"And these guys are all homegrown. They've come up together through the Minors."

So often in baseball's economic climate, a player's career for a small-market team usually serves to prepare him for a market like New York. In Giambi's case, he's seeing it the other way around.

"Playing in New York prepares you for this, because every at-bat counts," Giambi said. "That's the way it is for me now, being in the National League. Getting hits with the bases loaded, getting a hit and moving a runner, all those make a difference in this team going to the playoffs. You can't take any at-bat for granted.

"I'm hoping to have a chance in this series. Any at-bat can be huge."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.