NEW YORK (AP) - Recently released John Olerud signed with the New York Yankees on Tuesday, giving the team insurance at first base while Jason Giambi
is treated for a benign tumor.
Olerud, is a two-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner and was the 1993 AL batting champion. But he started slumping in the second half last
season with Seattle, and the Mariners cut him last month when his slide continued.
"I've definitely struggled, but I believe I can turn it around," Olerud said before Tuesday night's game against Oakland. "I don't feel like I'm that
far off. I think I'm still that same player."
Olerud was hitting .245 with five home runs and 22 RBIs in 78 games. The Mariners released him on July 27, shortly after he turned down a trade to the
San Francisco Giants. He was in the final year of a contract that guaranteed him $7.7 million this year. Olerud was not in the starting lineup on his
first day with the Yankees. Tony Clark has been playing first base lately with Giambi out. To make room for Olerud on the 40-man roster, right-handed
pitcher Sam Marsonek was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL.
"I'm here to help out, trying to provide good defense at first base," Olerud said.
Olerud is tied for the best career fielding percentage (.995) at the position among active major leaguers. Giambi was diagnosed with a benign tumor
last week and though the Yankees said they hoped the former AL MVP would return later this season, there was no guarantee. The team has not released a
lot of information on where the non-cancerous tumor is located or how it will be treated. Because of the uncertainty, there was no telling how long
Olerud would be with the Yankees.
"I think it depends on Giambi and when he comes back and how he's feeling," Olerud said.
Giambi was in a season-long slump before his recent illness forced him from the lineup. He was diagnosed with an intestinal parasite earlier this
season and said he often felt tired, leaving him with at .221 with 11 home runs and 36 RBIs. Even at his best, Giambi was not especially nimble at
first base. Clark has hit .236 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs, and played a little better in the field.
At 6-foot-5 and with soft hands, Olerud always had a nice touch at first base. Olerud enjoyed three productive years in New York with the Mets, from
1997-99. He hit over .300 during that span, averaging 21 home runs and 97 RBIs per season. While in New York, Olerud often rode the subway to games at
Shea Stadium. He'll wait and see whether he does that on trips to Yankee Stadium.
"We'll see how it goes," he said. "I haven't done that as much here.