CLEVELAND -- If there’s a player Indians manager Terry Francona has more respect for than Jason Giambi, he isn’t playing today.
“I’ve been fortunate to be around some pretty good people throughout my career, but G’s right at the top of the list,” Francona said of the 42-year-old veteran. “I know I’ve said it a lot, but that’s why I say it. He’s become so dear to everybody here so quickly. He’s been a blessing to everybody that’s come in contact with him in the Indians organization. That’s the best way to put it.”
Giambi’s experience and leadership have been evident in the clubhouse, but he’s also provided a surprising lift on the field -- more specifically at the plate. Though he entered Tuesday batting just .194 over 45 games, he has been a run producer. He was hitting .323 (10-for-31) with runners in scoring position through Monday, and he leads Cleveland with an RBI per 5.17 at-bats.
Giambi became the oldest player to ever hit a walk-off home run, with a pinch-hit game-winning solo shot Monday.
“I think he understands that he can impact the game with one swing,” Francona said. “He knows his responsibilities. He just kind of stays in the moment. He’s a good hitter. He’s just got some mileage so you can’t really play him all the time. So you try to pick your spots with him cause he can still do some damage.
“Not every team can carry a guy like that. But because of our versatility, not only can we care him, it works. He helps us before he gets in the batter’s box, but it’s also nice that he can help when he gets in the batter’s box.”
Right-hander Josh Tomlin is in Cleveland and is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment soon.
Tomlin is trying to come back from Tommy John surgery. He has appeared in two games in the Arizona League, tossing two innings and allowing a hit while striking out two.
Though Tomlin has not pitched on the big league level since Aug. 12 of last year, Francona said he was a potential September callup.
Cleveland entered Tuesday 24-20 against AL Central Division teams, 16-4 against the West and 10-20 against the East. ... The Indians’ eight walk-off homers were tied for the second-most in the majors through Monday behind Boston’s nine. ... Tonight, 7:05, STO/WTAM 1100-AM/WMMS 100.7-FM. Kluber (7-5, 3.74) vs. Quintana (5-3, 3.55).
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.