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'The Big Cat' feeling Giant again
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02/19/2003 4:09 pm ET 
'The Big Cat' feeling Giant again
By Chris Shuttlesworth / MLB.com

Andres Galarraga is bidding to be J.T. Snow's backup at first base. (Paul Connors/AP)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The already tight Giants clubhouse got even more cramped Wednesday as position players began reporting for Spring Training, and one of the biggest bodies to claim a locker was "The Big Cat," Andres Galarraga, beaming as always and happy to be back with San Francisco.

"I had a really great time when I played with this team, said Galarraga, who played for the Giants in 2001 after a midseason trade from the Rangers. "Too bad I wasn't playing [for them] last year when they went to the World Series. ... I really like the city, I love the team [and] I know the players."

In Galarraga's last tour of duty with the Giants, he sparked the club to a 38-23 record down the stretch as the Giants nearly caught both division champion Arizona and Wild Card winner St. Louis. He quickly became a fan favorite, bashing two walk-off homers, and, at the time, the longest home run in Pacific Bell Park history.

"No doubt about it, the fans helped me to come back here, because I believe in the two months I played for San Francisco, I got inside the fans' [hearts]," said Galarraga, who is in camp with a non-guaranteed minor league deal but has an excellent chance of making the team as a right-handed power bat off Felipe Alou's bench and as a backup to first baseman J.T. Snow.

In 2002, Galarraga, 41, played for the Expos, with whom he started his career, and was leaning toward retirement after the season. But he said the closeness of some career milestones -- he needs 14 homers for 400 and 19 RBIs for 1,400 -- enticed him back for one more year, although he's not going to let his personal goals preoccupy his thoughts.

complete coverage: spring training 2003

"I won't try, really, because it's part of the game," he said. "Believe me, when you don't try too much is when it's going to happen. What I try to do is try to make hard contact somewhere. I know when I'm going good, I know the ball will jump somewhere."

To Galarraga's left at Scottsdale Stadium is the locker of Edgardo Alfonzo, still trying to escape New York after being snowed in by the massive blizzard that hit the East Coast earlier this week. The team expected Alfonzo to catch a flight Wednesday and be in camp for the first full workout Thursday.

Ray Durham was a bit luckier, getting out of North Carolina on Sunday despite his connecting flight getting stuck in Baltimore. He's been doing some running since his arrival, to acclimate himself to the climate.

"I'm glad to get away from the cold weather. I just got out before the ice hit," he said. "I had to get a little running in and get used to this light air out here. ... You get tired fast out here. Even the amount of work we did in the offseason doesn't prepare you for this light air out here."

Durham was among several players, including Neifi Perez, Jose Cruz Jr. and Galarraga, who joined the workouts for pitchers and catchers, getting in some early batting practice and taking ground balls.

"I'm amazed at the shape that these guys are in and the conditioning program they have here," said manager Felipe Alou. "They wanted to work out right away as soon they got here. It's not like they're looking for an apartment. These guys came here to do work."

Chris Shuttlesworth is an editorial producer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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