GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Jason Giambi's days as a masher are mainly behind him. His muscular, tattooed arms are as carved as ever, but the hair around his temples is dusted gray. In the late innings of his career, he's a mentor.

The stately slugger.

And at 42, Giambi knows he's down to his final swings as a major leaguer.

The former Yankee will try to make them count with Cleveland.

After contemplating retirement and interviewing to be Colorado's manager, Giambi signed a minor-league contract this month with the Indians, who are confident the 18-year veteran cannot only bring them some power as a part-time designated hitter but also help teach their younger players.

"He's not just a veteran guy. He's like THE veteran," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I truly feel like it's an honor that he's in our camp. That's how strongly I feel about him."

The feeling's mutual.

Giambi has known Francona since he played in the minors, which some days feels like a lifetime ago to the five-time All-Star, who may have lost some bat speed but not an ounce of his love for the game. He always wanted to play for Francona, who said the only time he didn't like Giambi was "when he was in the batter's box on the other side of the field."

Limited to just 89 at-bats during his fourth season with Colorado, Giambi entered the offseason facing an uncertain future. With few options, Giambi considered calling it quits after hitting 429 homers and driving in 1,405 runs in 17 seasons for Oakland, the Yankees and Rockies.

"I have a 15-month-old girl. I finally grew up," he said, laughing. "I thought if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. I had some offers for a hitting-coach job and I thought maybe I would take a year and enjoy my family."

But his ties to Francona helped seal the deal. "When I got the phone call from the Indians," Giambi said, "I jumped right on it because it was Tito."

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