GOODYEAR, Ariz. — New Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona doesn’t yet know all the ins and outs of his team, but the one thing he knows for sure about it is that he has two productive pieces in Jason Giambi and Nick Swisher, players the Tribe acquired in the offseason.
Francona has a history with Giambi and he expects positive vibes from the 42-year-old veteran of veterans. He is coming off four years with the Colorado Rockies as a part-time player and the 17-year major-leaguer hit .225 with six homers and 35 RBI in 60 games last year, a season that was beset by injuries.
Asked if Giambi will be of assistance to the Tribe’s younger players, Francona quickly says, “Not just the younger guys, he is helping the older guys, too, and me. I’ve already gone to him at least three times this spring with questions.”
When a guy reaches a certain baseball age or a certain level of experience, one of the adjectives applied to him is veteran.
Francona, though, goes a step farther and says, “He is not a veteran, he is THE veteran. He is a special guy to the point where at our first meeting I was kind of looking around the room, trying to look at everybody.
“I saw his face and I settled on him and I got goose bumps,” said Francona. “I go so far back with him and know him so well. He commands that kind of respect. When he walks into a room guys want to listen to him.
“There are a lot of veterans who have a lot to offer but might not do it right,” Francona added. “Guys gravitate towards ‘G’ and he has a way of talking to guys so that they want to listen. And he openly admits, ‘I’ve been everywhere — at the top and at the bottom,’ so he doesn’t shy away.”
And speaking of veterans, the Indians brought another veteran in when they acquired former New York Yankee Swisher, a guy who not only was a success in New York but brings a buoyant personality to the team and a special flair, or as one person put it, “He was a hey look at me guy.”
“I’ve known Swish for a long time and I was with him in Oakland when he was a young kid,” said Francona. “If it wasn’t legit, I could see that (he has too much flair). But he is like that every day. That’s him.
“We were on Field Six one morning and he was leading that entire group in base running,” said Francona. “He just doesn’t talk the talk, he walks it and he feels it, believes it and it works for him. I don’t care what people thought about him before, I know how we feel about him here. Our guys love him and I do, too. Even in spring training games he is ready to go.”
Swisher, 32, is coming off four years on Broadway with the Yankees and signed a five-year $70 million free agent deal with the Indians. He hit .272 in 148 games last year with 24 homers and 93 RBI.