07/02/2003 5:00 PM ET
Giambi, Matsui win AL honors
BALTIMORE -- Just as the Yankees dominated the month of June with a 20-7 record, two of New York's hitters dominated the monthly awards in the American League.
By Mark Feinsand / MLB.com
Jason Giambi was named the AL's Player of the Month, while Hideki Matsui captured his first AL Rookie of the Month award.
Giambi, who earned his fourth career Player of the Month award, batted .373 (31-for-83) in 27 games in June, hitting 11 home runs and driving in 29 RBIs. The first baseman also led the AL with an .819 slugging percentage and a .554 on-base percentage, and tied for the league lead with 27 runs scored.
After a tough May, in which he battled an eye infection, Giambi bounced back after having a calcium deposit removed from his left eye on May 29.
"With that eye infection, I sputtered for about three weeks," Giambi said. "I could see, it just wasn't crisp. I was having trouble with off-speed pitches. The way they pitch me, I don't get fastballs down the middle anymore. Now, I'm taking consistent at-bats again and hitting the ball hard."
How much of a difference was it for Giambi after his eyes cleared up?
"Player of the month," Giambi said with a grin.
Giambi walked 33 times in June, giving him the AL lead with 68 free passes, 10 more than Chicago's Frank Thomas.
"I guess once he learned how to see again, he did a pretty good job," said manager Joe Torre. "He's such a good hitter, and with the number of home runs he hits, to know that he'll take a walk, that makes him unique."
Giambi hopes to ride the momentum he carried out of June into July and through the rest of the season. Through Wednesday, he was hitting .266 with 22 home runs and 63 RBIs. Giambi is the second Yankee to win Player of the Month honors, following Alfonso Soriano, who won in April.
"You always hope to answer back with a couple of big months," Giambi said. "Hopefully I'll keep it going."
Matsui won his first Rookie of the Month award, snapping Rocco Baldelli's two-month streak.
"I'm very happy to win the award. It's a pleasure and an honor," Matsui said through his interpreter. "It's funny. I have been able to play for the last 10 years, so it doesn't feel like I'm a rookie."
Matsui led all AL rookies with a .394 batting average, 29 RBIs, 41 hits, 11 doubles, 15 walks, a .673 slugging percentage and a .484 on-base percentage. He had two four-hit games in June and 14 multi-hit efforts overall, bashing six home runs.
"He came a long way," Torre said. "He's been so productive for us, that without him, we couldn't have put this streak together. He's knocked in a lot of big runs for us."
Matsui went 4-for-5 with a homer, three doubles and three RBIs in Cincinnati on June 5 and 4-for-4 with two runs and an RBI vs. the New York Mets on June 28 at Shea Stadium. He batted .522 (12-for-23) with three home runs and 10 RBI in six Subway Series games overall, highlighted by his second career grand slam, posting a career-high five RBIs in the opener of a two-park doubleheader.
"I just have to continue to put out the same effort," Matsui said. "If I do that, I believe I can continue to perform at a high level for the rest of the season."
Matsui currently is second among AL outfielders in All-Star balloting.
"He's a phenomenal hitter," Giambi said. "I don't know if he got enough credit for that because of his power numbers in Japan. He's done a great job."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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