Slimmed-down first baseman denies steroid use

Updated: February 23, 2004, 9:23 PM ET
Associated Press

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."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press