Sun, May 15, 2005 - Page 23 News List

Mattingly works on Giambi's swing

PRO BASEBALL Tino Martinez credits Yankees hitting coach Don Mattingly for his sudden power surge, and Jason Giambi is hoping he can achieve the same results

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA

Yankees DH Jason Giambi flys out to right against A's pitcher Keiichi Yabu during the fourth inning at McAfee Coliseum in Oakland, California on Friday. Giambi was 1-4.

PHOTO: EPA

Dressed all in black, from his tam golf cap to his dress shoes, Reggie Jackson sauntered up to Jason Giambi for a chat behind the McAfee Coliseum batting cage. Giambi listened, but the conversation did not last long.

Giambi had work to do with an impish-looking fellow leaning on the cage, the one with the dark blue warm-up top and a tall sheet of paper rising out of his back pocket.

Giambi sees that fellow, the Yankees hitting coach Don Mattingly, as the possible savior of his career at a time when a savior is exactly what he needs.

Already, Tino Martinez credits Mattingly for his sudden power surge, with homers in five consecutive games (all Yankee victories) going into the game Friday night with the Athletics.

The symmetry of this was not lost on Mattingly, who retired after the 1995 season. Martinez succeeded Mattingly at first base for the Yankees, and Giambi succeeded Martinez. Now they are all together in pinstripes, the successors grasping for wisdom from the man they followed.

"It's kind of weird that we've all been here a long time," Mattingly said. "Somebody said the other day it's like 20 years with all three, and all three guys are in the same clubhouse now.

"But it's also pretty cool. I've always thought there was a bond between our organization, and also you've got a bond at our position, and we've been through the same thing -- probably me less than them."

Manager Joe Torre said Giambi, who batted eighth Friday night as the designated hitter, would play extensively on this six-game trip. Torre said he needed to know whether Giambi could hit. If he flops, the Yankees may ask him to go to the minors to regain his timing and stroke.

"He obviously has the ability to be a big player," Torre said. "He's been a big player. He can be a big help to us if we find that guy again. He can't find it on the bench."

Implementing what Mattingly has been telling him may determine whether Giambi finds it at all. Torre and Mattingly think Giambi is waiting too long to start his swing, which is why balls he used to whack have been getting by him in his 0-for-15, 10-strikeout swoon since April 28. Mattingly said Giambi needed to swing at the ball farther in front of the plate than he had been.

"I want him to look out front a little bit more, because he's getting beat so far back," Mattingly said.

Torre said Giambi would also play some first base. As the designated hitter, he will take at-bats from Bernie Williams, whom Torre asked to be patient.

"I think the biggest surprise is how upbeat Jason is about going out and getting it back," Torre said. "If I hadn't produced for a while, my confidence would be beat up a little bit."

That is the Mattingly influence.

But Mattingly knows that more than anything, Giambi needs the positive reinforcement only several days of hits and well-struck balls can provide.

"He's got to do it on the field," Mattingly said. "You can say it feels good, you can think it feels good, you can think it may be the right thing, you could be right where you want to be. But if you're not having success with it, you still don't believe it. The bottom line is the bottom line: getting results on the field.

"I don't know how to explain, because I've been through it myself. You go, this isn't right, that isn't right, until suddenly, bam-bam-bam, whoa, there it is, there's that feel. Suddenly, the other way. That's what we look for."

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