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BASEBALL Giambi says he's sorry for mistake



Published: Fri, February 11, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Without admitting steroid use, the Yankees slugger said he told a grand jury the truth.

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jason Giambi twiddled his thumbs, crossed his legs and fidgeted in his chair.

He said he was sorry five times. He apologized three times.

To the New York Yankees. To his teammates. To the fans.

But he never said why. And he never talked about using steroids, never mentioned the word.

Giambi came to Yankee Stadium on Thursday to make his first public comments since it was reported in December that he'd told a federal grand jury in 2003 that he took steroids for at least three seasons.

"When I went into that grand jury, I told the truth," he said.

But that's about as far as he went, despite repeated prodding.

"I know the fans might want more, but at this present time because of all the legal matters, I can't get into specifics," he said. "Someday, hopefully, I will be able to."

Said his agent, Arn Tellem: "The answers are there if you look for them."

Distractions hurt team

On this day, though, Giambi wasn't telling all.

"There's been a lot of distraction, definitely, over the last year, and I'm sorry for that, I really am," Giambi said. "I feel I let down the fans, I feel I let down the media, I feel I let down the Yankees, not only the Yankees, but my teammates.

"I accept full responsibility for that," he went on. "I'm sorry, but I'm trying to go forward now. Most of all, to the fans, I'm sorry. I know it's going to be hard, and I understand how they feel."

Only 10 days before he's scheduled to report to spring training, Giambi met with print reporters for 43 minutes with general manager Brian Cashman, manager Joe Torre and Tellem at his side. He later did another interview session for television and radio.

"If it was up to Jason, he would tell you everything," Tellem said.

Giambi ready to play

Wearing a dark striped suit and black shirt, his face stubbly with several days of beard, Giambi's face looked red, not pale as it did much of last season. His weight was back up to about 235 pounds. He greeted fans outside the ballpark and signed autographs.

"It takes a hell of a big man to stand up and apologize to his teammates, to New York Yankee fans and to baseball fans everywhere and admit he was wrong," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said in a statement.

Giambi, who last year repeatedly denied using illegal steroids, is owed $82 million from the Yankees as part of the $120 million, seven-year contract he was given before the 2002 season. Steinbrenner spoke with him by telephone a few weeks ago.

"The biggest thing that I told him was I wasn't a quitter," Giambi said. "I told him that I was ready to play, and I was going to be that player that he had signed."

Yankees teammate Gary Sheffield said last October he unwittingly used substances that contained steroids. He was the team's most productive hitter last season and faced less scrutiny than Giambi.

Moving forward

Giambi said he was pleased with the agreement between players and owners for more frequent testing for performance-enhancing drugs.

He said he had not read the San Francisco Chronicle story, which cited transcripts of his grand jury testimony, and he would not say whether the newspaper's report was accurate.

The 2000 AL MVP with Oakland, his numbers dropped in the second half of the 2003 season when he had a knee injury. He was bothered by a parasite and a benign tumor last year, and slumped to .208 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs. The Yankees dropped him from their postseason roster.

"I think we're all curious to see how he's going to rebound from everything he went through last year," Torre said. "He certainly looks better than he did."

Torre toyed with batting orders last week and given the uncertainty, he didn't know where to slot Giambi, who could be supplanted by Tino Martinez at first base and become a designated hitter.

"There was a time a couple of years ago, you put him third or fourth," Torre said. "But right now, I don't know where he fits in our lineup."

One of the few topics Giambi specifically addressed was Jose Canseco's book, which is being released next week. The New York Daily News reported Sunday that Canseco says in the book that he, Giambi and Mark McGwire shot steroids together.

"I find that delusional to be honest with you. I don't even know where he would come up with anything like that," Giambi said. "I think it's kind of sad that Josie is that desperate, I think, to make a dime."

Cashman said the Yankees never discussed steroids with Giambi before they signed him, saying the environment in baseball was different then.

"Today was a step, a necessary step," Cashman said. "One of many that needs to be taken."




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