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Slimmed-down first baseman denies steroid use

TAMPA, Fla. -- Noticeably trimmer to Joe Torre and most
everyone else at Yankees camp, Jason Giambi explained that better
eating habits and hard workouts had left him leaner. He emphasized
one more thing: Steroids had never been a part of his diet.

Giambi said he'd lost four pounds, down to 228, during the
offseason by cutting back on fast foods and doing extensive rehab
from knee surgery. Standing at his locker Monday at Legends Field,
his chest, biceps and legs appeared smaller -- enough so that many
people did a double take when they first saw him walk through the
clubhouse.

"My weight is almost exactly the same," he said. "Just
cleaning it up and losing some of that excess body fat I had."

The subject of steroids has swept baseball this spring,
prompting many fans to take a closer look -- fairly or unfairly -- at
many of its biggest sluggers.

Giambi and new New York teammate Gary Sheffield both testified Dec. 11 before a grand jury probing the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, a company accused of providing steroids to sports stars. Being subpoenaed did not mean an athlete was a target of the investigation, which was focused on possible drug and tax violations by BALCO.

Asked Monday whether he had taken performance-enhancing drugs,
Giambi said: "Are you talking about steroids? No."

Giambi said he did not know BALCO founder Victor Conte and said
he welcomed the commissioner's office testing players this season.

"Hopefully, everything is going to be fine," he said. "This
has really shed a different light on everything."

Torre noticed Giambi's slimmed-down physique.

"He looked thinner to me," the manager said. "He's a big guy
and he's still a big guy. I didn't think it was drastic."

"He just looks thinner in here," Torre said, rubbing his
chest.

On his first day in camp with position players, Giambi patiently
answered several questions regarding the steroid issue.

Sheffield turned testy when pressed on the topic. He spoke about
it a couple of times this month during informal workouts and said
he had not used steroids.

"Why would I talk to Jason? I haven't seen Jason. Next
question. Next question," Sheffield said. "You get a pee cup,
I'll pee. You get a needle or syringe, I'll give you blood."

Sheffield said he'd been dogged by off-the-field questions
dating to when his uncle, former Cy Young winner and current
Yankees instructor Dwight Gooden, tested positive for cocaine.

"I've been guilty by association for years," Sheffield said.

Torre also faced a bunch of questions about steroids. Usually
relaxed at this time of year, telling stories with his cap tilted
back, Torre spent a lot of time rubbing his brow as he discussed
the issue.

"Evidently, it's not going to go away," he said. "I hope we
can get through it. You have to sit back and wait and see if
anything else comes out."

Torre said he not spoken to Sheffield or Giambi about the
subject. Torre planned to talk to the team, as he's done in the
past, about the importance of players taking proper care of
themselves.

"I'd rather teach a lesson than putting someone on the spot," he said.

Giambi said his main focus was on continuing to build up
strength in his left knee. He did not start Game 5 of the World
Series because of knee trouble and had surgery Nov. 18.

Giambi hit 41 homers with 107 RBIs last year, mostly as the DH
late in the season. While the Yankees are close to signing Travis
Lee, Torre would like to see Giambi spend more time at first base --
that would make room for both Bernie Williams and Kenny Lofton in
the lineup, one in center field and the other at DH.

"I know they're going to want me to be on the field a lot, so
I'm just trying to take these few extra pounds I don't need off,"
Giambi said.

"My legs aren't as big because I had to rehab them so hard, to
be honest with you," he said. "My upper body is pretty much the
same, strength-wise."