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Fans welcome back Giambi

Many get in line for Yankee's autograph

A little more than two hours after Jason Giambi arrived at spring training yesterday in Tampa, he walked to the outfield end of the New York Yankees' dugout and stepped onto the field.

How was he welcomed after an offseason filled with steroid allegations? With cheers and outstretched pens.

There were several hundred people in the stands, and the line of fans waiting for his autograph snaked up the stands at Legends Field.

For 27 minutes, Giambi signed baseballs, pictures, and jerseys. Then he went to the other end of the dugout and spent eight more minutes giving autographs for a line of children.

Dressed in a black T-shirt and blue jeans, Giambi smiled, posed for fan pictures, and seemed at ease. "It's pretty humbling, pretty incredible, to have the support from the fans," Giambi said.

Garciaparra: I'm no leader
Arriving at Cubs camp in Mesa, Ariz., ex-Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra shrugged off suggestions that he could emerge as the new leader of the team following the departures of Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou.

"I'm definitely not the new face of this organization, that's for sure," Garciaparra said. "You're not looking for one leader. There is a nucleus of guys here, a core of guys that represents this team so well. You're looking at Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, you got Michael Barrett."

After he left the Red Sox, they went on to win their first World Series since 1918. But he didn't watch.

"You know what? I've never watched the World Series," he said. "I followed [the Red Sox] because I had so many dear friends and stuff. I just would know who would win or lose. I've never watched a World Series. If I'm going to watch it, I'm going to be in it."

Bonds on deck
With slugger Barry Bonds expected to arrive at Giants camp in Scottsdale, Ariz., today, it's sure to be an event. More than 100 media members are expected, and Bonds surely will be peppered with questions about the steroid controversy that has surrounded him. Bonds had arthroscopic surgery on both knees in the offseason and isn't expected to do a lot on the field until the middle of March . . . At Orioles camp in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., pitcher Sidney Ponson said an 11-day jail stay in his native land of Aruba taught him a valuable lesson. In the wake of a Christmas Day brawl in which he landed in jail after allegedly punching a judge, Ponson says he's no longer at ease in public. "I definitely see this as a life-changing experience," he said. "You sit in a restaurant, you're always looking around. I'm looking over my shoulder because you never know what can happen." . . . More than a month in advance, new Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin already named his starter for Opening Day: former Yankee Javier Vazquez, the righthander who initially balked at the trade that brought Randy Johnson to New York. "It's an honor," said Vazquez, who got the nod over Russ Ortiz, "and hopefully I don't disappoint." . . . The Washington Nationals agreed to terms for a non-guaranteed contract with veteran infielder Carlos Baerga, a three-time All-Star who hit .235 with two home runs and 11 RBIs last year for Arizona.

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