By John Donovan, SI.com
Player I Saw Whom I Really Liked
He's not as big as he used to be and, yeah, he's going to be carrying quite a burden this season because of the fallout from the BALCO scandal. But so far Jason Giambi looks pretty good. I watched him take batting practice and grounders on a crisp Wednesday morning at Legends Field, and though I can't say he looked fantastic, he looked plenty good enough. He had some pop in his bat, sending at least four batting-practice fastballs over the fence -- a couple of them fairly deep. And, in the field, he seemed comfortable at first base getting down for grounders, most of which he fielded cleanly. Giambi will be strictly a designated hitter for the first several exhibition games, though he still wants to play in the field. Wherever he's put in the lineup, Giambi's just about ready to go. He said his knee feels good and he's happy with the at-bats he had in the Yankees' intrasquad games. Maybe he won't be an MVP-type force, but if he stays healthy and gets the at-bats, Giambi could be a 30-homer, 100-RBI player. Juiced up or not, he's listed at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds -- only five pounds lighter than last year. "He seems comfortable to me," manager Joe Torre said in his office after Wednesday's mini-workout. "As long as he doesn't get any longer with his swing than he is ... it's just a matter of getting his timing down. His batting practice seemed very smooth to me."
Team's biggest strengths
Only the Red Sox scored more runs than the Yankees' 897 last season, and the Bronx Bombers have kept most of that loaded lineup intact for 2005. With Giambi healthy, they should be even better. Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui and b and perhaps Tino Martinez are capable of belting at least 20 homers each. Newcomer Tony Womack, the second baseman, gives the Yanks three legitimate threats on the basepaths (with Jeter and A-Rod). The Yanks also have a strong bullpen led by one of the all-time great closers (Mariano Rivera) and a starting rotation bolstered by the addition of Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano.
Team's biggest weakness
The Yankees are not a young team. Rodriguez is their greenest position player, and he turns 30 in June. Sheffield and center fielder Bernie Williams are 36, Womack is 35, Giambi is 34 and Martinez is 37. The rotation, other than newcomers Wright and Pavano, has some age on it, too. Johnson is 41, No. 5 starter Kevin Brown is creaky and about to turn 40 and longtime stalwart Mike Mussina is 36. There's a lot of concern whether Williams can cover the big center field in Yankee Stadium, though. The Yankees will need these veterans to be healthy and productive because there isn't much depth to speak of in the organization.
The big buzz among the New York reporters for the past couple of days has been the health of Johnson. The Big Unit was scratched for Thursday's exhibition opener because of a sore calf. That set off the back pages in the Big Apple. Some of the gems: "Don't Have a Cow" (a sore calf, get it?) from the Daily News and "Nothin' to Calf At" from the New York Post. "Tomorrow, I could go out and pitch," Johnson said after Wednesday's abbreviated workout. "I feel that fine." He's 41 -- did we mention that? -- so the questions are going to be there. ... Walking around with the Yankees at spring training, even during a shortened workout, is a stroll through pinstriped history. Yogi Berra's here, and Dwight Gooden, and Don Mattingly is now a full-time coach. The list of guest instructors includes Reggie Jackson, Tommy John, Ron Guidry and Graig Nettles. ... The Yanks have 59 players in camp, including 28 pitchers. Twenty-one of them are rookies. ... Sheffield, nursing his surgically repaired shoulder, and catcher Posada will be the only regulars held out of the Yanks' exhibition opener against the Pirates in Tampa. Martinez will play first, Giambi will be the DH. ... Legends Field is nice and all, if you can get a seat, but the drone of traffic on Dale Mabry Boulevard beyond the fences subtracts mightily from the experience. ... Lastly, in the spirit of leg injuries and oxymorons, a question: Is there any such thing as an un-noticeable limp?