CLEVELAND -- Humility comes naturally to Major League ballplayers, who normally lightly deflect personal tributes.

But Jason Giambi had no trouble grasping the full meaning of his selection on Wednesday as the American League Player of the Month for July.

"It's exciting ... probably ranks up there pretty high on the list of things I've accomplished," said Giambi prior to the Yankees' game here against the Indians.

"In this game, especially, a lot of hard work doesn't guarantee you anything. Hard work doesn't necessarily mean you get results. It's nice that things came together. It was a big month for me, a big month for the Yankees."

Giambi mounted a guerrilla campaign for the award, coming out of nowhere to hit 14 home runs and lead the AL in various other offensive categories in July.

He had hit one homer each in May and June, and when that month ended, he had season totals of five homers and 22 RBIs. More than doubling those accumulated numbers, he drove in 24 runs in July while lifting his average to .286.

Giambi also led American League batsmen with a .974 slugging percentage, .524 on-base percentage and 74 total bases while batting .355 for the month.

All that just mere weeks after the Yankees considered sending him to Triple-A so he could find his swing.

"He's run an obstacle course to where he is now," said manager Joe Torre. "I'm very pleased for him. He's worked so hard to get there, and I know all the players were pulling for him. It's got to be very satisfying."

The month was also very compelling, since it ended with the most home runs struck in one month by a Yankee since July 1961, when Mickey Mantle also hit 14.

John Giambi, Jason's dad and childhood batting mentor, was a huge enough fan of Mantle's for the kid to don No. 25 in the Bronx -- because the digits add up to Mickey's retired No. 7.

"Oh yeah, he thought that was pretty cool, he was excited," said Giambi of his father's reaction to the Mantle connection. "That's the great thing about playing here. Any time you accomplish something, you get your name mentioned along with some great names."

Winning monthly awards is pretty old hat to Giambi. This is his fifth citation and the third since he joined the Yankees for the 2002 season.

But this is the first time he has been recognized since being implicated in a steroids scandal, since losing most of his strength and numbers to a siege of debilitating injuries, since swinging his hands raw in an attempt to get them back.

"It's nice," he said, not able to totally stray from his habitual understatement. "It's been a long way to come, a lot of hard work to put in."