More at-bats for Giambi likely in Interleague Play

More at-bats for Giambi likely in Interleague Play

More at-bats for Giambi likely in Interleague Play
DENVER -- Interleague Play is usually a good time for the Rockies. It's the best time for Jason Giambi.

As a left-handed-hitting backup first baseman behind Todd Helton, opportunities in the Rockies' normal National League games are sparse. But Giambi, 41, has chances to play as the designated hitter when the Rockies visit American League parks. That doesn't occur until trips to Detroit and Texas next month, but the Rockies use him more often in May to get him ready for the extended playing time.

It pays off. Giambi joined the Rockies toward the end of the 2009 season after spending his entire career in the AL. In 2010, his first year facing the NL as a National League player, Giambi hit .273 with a .333 on-base percentage, two home runs and eight RBIs in 36 plate appearances. Last year, Giambi batted .357 with a .438 on-base percentage, three home runs and five RBIs in 32 Interleague plate appearances.

"It's fun, definitely makes our lineup good getting that extra hitter in there," said Giambi, who has missed recent playing time waiting for a bruised right foot to heal. "It's almost like those Spring Training games when you are all in there and all get a chance to play."

2012 INTERLEAGUE PLAY PREVIEW
Watch all the Interleague action on MLB.TV
All-time club Interleague records
All-time Interleague leaderboard

Colorado's Interleague schedule starts Friday with the opener of three against the Mariners at Coors Field. There will be no DH, but if healthy, Giambi will get his chances to build his catalog of at-bats for when he does have to be in the lineup. The Rockies have been among the top NL teams in Interleague Play in recent years. They'll need to repeat that this year. They went into Thursday's game against the D-backs with a 15-21 record.

"We've got a tough schedule for Interleague, so we need to start putting it together and start climbing out of this hole," Giambi said. "Let's get some momentum going. Hopefully, we can carry it through."

Players to watch
Todd Helton, 1B (.304, 23 HRs, 121 RBIs): The Rockies have traditionally been among the NL's best against the AL, and Helton's numbers are a key reason.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS (.268, .360 OBP, .526 SLG): In years when he's started slowly, Interleague Play has come at a time when he's heating up.
Jamie Moyer, LHP (23-15, 3.47 ERA in 44 starts): Unlike Helton and Tulowitzki, who have spent their entire careers in the NL, Moyer has pitched on both sides of the Interleague ledger.
Jason Giambi, 1B (.277, 49 HRs, 150 RBIs): Interleague has been more significant for Giambi since 2010, his first full season with the Rockies. Games in AL parks represent his best opportunity for regular playing time, because he can serve as designated hitter.
Last year: 8-7. It was at a good time for the Rockies, who started strong, faltered in May and needed to stabilize themselves. But it wasn't the usual bonanza it had been in the past.

All-time: The Rockies have had winning records against the AL five of the last six years, including a pair of 11-4 marks in 2006 and 2009. The 2009 Interleague surge helped them go to the playoffs. The last losing year was 7-8 in 2008 and the worst years were 4-8 in 1998 and 1999.

vs. Mariners Friday-Sunday: Last time the teams met at Coors Field, the Rockies swept a three-game series in 2009. The Rockies are 7-4 against the M's at Coors.

vs. Angels June 8-10: The Angels have not been to Coors Field since 2001, when they were swept in three games. But this is a different Angels team, with Albert Pujols in tow. Pujols has hit .285 with nine home runs and 32 RBIs in 38 games at Coors.

vs. Athletics June 12-14: The Rockies are 8-3 against the Athletics all-time at Coors, and have never lost a home series to them.

@ Tigers June 15-17: The Rockies are 4-5 at Detroit. The 2009 series when the Rockies took two of three was part of the surge that landed them in the playoffs.

@ Rangers June 22-24: It's been a long time since the Rockies have been to Texas. They dropped two of three against the Rangers way back in 2001.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.