New York Yankees: Curtis Granderson

Postgame notes: Nova to start on Sunday

June, 21, 2013
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Ivan Nova will start the finale of the Yankees-Rays series on Sunday afternoon.

"That's our plan as of right now," Joe Girardi said after the Yankees' 6-2 win on Friday night.

Nova was a healthy scratch from his start for Triple-A Scranton on Friday.

The 26-year-old was 2-1 with a 5.16 ERA with the Yankees this season but excelled at Triple-A, going 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA.

Nova began the season as the Yankees' No. 5 starter but was replaced by David Phelps, who earned the win on Friday.

GRANDY TAKES STEP IN RIGHT DIRECTION: Curtis Granderson has taken a positive step in his rehab from a broken left pinkie.

The slugger had a pin removed from his hand on Thursday.

He hopes to start swinging a bat under water soon. The next major step will be hitting off a tee.

"Once we get that going," Granderson said, "things should hopefully go relatively quickly."

Granderson fractured his hand on May 25.

"No pain, no soreness," he said.

Injuries have limited Granderson to just eight games and 31 plate appearances this season. He broke his right forearm on his first at-bat of spring training three months before he fractured his pinkie.

Granderson, who was in the Bronx on Friday, said he has been running and lifting weights with his lower body. He hopes to start lifting weights with his upper body soon.

PHELPS JUST FINE: Phelps allowed two runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings to earn a win for the third time in four starts at home.

Phelps got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam by inducing back-to-back flyouts to keep the game tied at 2-2 in the fourth.

"I thought that was the inning for us that changed the game," Girardi said.

STINGY STAFF: Yankees pitchers have held their opponents to four runs or fewer 49 times, the most among American League staffs. ... The Yanks reached base safely in every inning except for the fifth and seventh and collected their most hits (11) since May 29.
 Ichiro SuzukiAP Photo/Mark J. TerrillThe Yankees held on for as long as they could in the absence of their biggest Bombers.
ANAHEIM -- Throughout this unprecedented run of injuries that has decimated the New York Yankees and reduced their lineup to what hitting coach Kevin Long referred to as "the B-squad," there has always been the feeling in the back of many minds that, at some point, the cavalry was going to ride back to save the day like the climax of some John Wayne western.

Well, by now it should be apparent to even the most fervent Yankee believer not named Joe Girardi that the cavalry is not riding back, and that the fort is going to have to be defended by the men who are already there, under siege and barely holding it together.

Already, the Yankees had gotten back two of their injured regulars, Curtis Granderson and Kevin Youkilis, and practically before they could lace up their new spikes, they found themselves back on the DL.

And on Saturday, a third regular who was thought to have rejoined the team for good, Mark Teixeira, went down again with a recurrence of an injury the Yankees had proclaimed healed.

Even granting the fact that it is still relatively early in the season (there are 94 games yet to be played) and the Yankees are still relatively close to the pace in the AL East (in third place, four games back of the division-leading Boston Red Sox), there comes a point when enough is enough, and when the injuries are simply too much.

It may be that the Yankees are at that point now.

Wells
Mark Cunningham/Getty ImagesVernon Wells has seen his performance decline after a hot start to the season.
The loss of Teixeira in the fourth inning of Saturday’s 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels -- incidentally, the Yankees' fifth loss in a row, the fourth straight game in which they scored just two runs, and a loss that left them on the verge of suffering back-to-back sweeps and the catastrophe of a 3-7 road trip -- not only reminds you of the folly of assuming that at some point, all the currently injured Yankees will miraculously recover in full and return to spark the team’s resurgence.

It also demonstrates how woefully inadequate the replacements for those injured players are now, and have been for the past three weeks.

On May 25, the Yankees were at their high-water mark -- 12 games over .500 and a game ahead of the rest of their division. On that day, Robinson Cano was batting .286, Vernon Wells .270, Travis Hafner .269, and Lyle Overbay .255.

All of them have since declined in performance, Hafner by 50 points, and Wells by 41.

But the team-wide decline has been longer and slower than that, and only now so readily perceptible. At the end of April, the Yankees were hitting .261 as a team and averaging 4.6 runs per game. In May, they hit .233 and their average runs per game dropped by a full run to 3.6.

Halfway through June, the bottom has fallen out. In the 14 games played this month, the Yankees have hit .217 and are scoring an average of three runs a game, and falling. They haven’t scored more than two in a game since last Tuesday, June 11, in Oakland.

Girardi continues to say he "has faith" in his lineup because of the way it performed in April. And while it's true that athletes, and human beings, are generally as good as they look on their best day, the best days for a lot of these Yankees may well be behind them.

It may be that the April Yankees were playing well above their capabilities, and not -- as Girardi would like to believe -- that the June Yankees are playing well under theirs.

And even if the truth lies somewhere in between, even the manager had to acknowledge -- as he did one game before Teixeira’s re-injury -- that the team he has now may well be all the team he will have for the rest of the season.

All along, we have believed that if only the replacement Yankees could hold down the fort for a couple of months, the "real" Yankees -- Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and Granderson and Teixeira -- would come storming back to the rescue at midseason.

But already, Granderson came back, played eight games, and went down again with a broken hand. Youkilis went on the DL for a month, came back, played in 11 games and went down once more with the same back injury, only worse -- and you would probably not go broke betting that he is headed to the operating table.

Same for Teixeira who, in his 15th game back after missing the first 53, couldn’t make it through four innings before leaving with the same type of injury Jose Bautista tried to play through last year, only to wind up having season-ending surgery.

Rodriguez has only just started running the bases, lightly. And Jeter never did make it out of spring training before re-injuring his ankle and having to start all over.

So now, what should make anyone believe that a few more days of rest will restore Teixeira or Youkilis, or that neither Jeter nor A-Rod, both of whom are closer to 40 than 35, will make it through their latest rehabs without more setbacks?

As for Granderson, he still has a pin in his hand that must be surgically removed. After that, it is anyone’s guess how long it will take him to be ready. Francisco Cervelli, with a similar injury, had his pin removed more than two weeks ago and is still too swollen and sore to throw a ball or swing a bat.

What the Yankees saw in April was in many ways a fantasy, the temporary return to glory of players who had not been really productive for years.

What they are seeing now is cold, hard reality, that injuries do not magically heal up on players in their mid-to-upper 30s, and that the sudden resurgence of players who had seemed finished just a year ago is often illusory and misleading.

The Yankees will win a ballgame again. And because their pitching has been so good, they will probably win enough ballgames to stay in the playoff hunt for much of the season.

But unless GM Brian Cashman is on the hunt for some serious impact bats at the trade deadline -- and he seems to have some surplus pitching to spare in Ivan Nova and Joba Chamberlain -- the Yankees have no realistic hope that their roster will be upgraded significantly between now and the end of the season.

The replacement Yankees held down the fort for as long as they could, but without a cavalry riding to their rescue, it doesn’t seem likely that they can hold it much longer.

Granderson: Debut was like Opening Day

May, 15, 2013
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There may not have been the pomp and circumstance that normally accompanies the moment, but Curtis Granderson's season debut Tuesday had him feeling like he was in April.

"It was just like another Opening Day," Granderson said. "Nerves coming into it, since it's the first game of the 2013 season, to be here in Yankee Stadium for the first time since last season, all those different things ran through in terms of emotions and excitement. Get the first ball, the first at-bat, get the first game out of the way, definitely a bit of a relief. Now we move forward and get back to just playing baseball."

[+] EnlargeCurtis Granderson
Anthony Gruppuso/USA TODAY SportsCurtis Granderson scored the Yankees' first run against the Mariners in his return to the lineup.
After missing the first 38 games of the season due to a fractured forearm, Granderson returned to the Yankees lineup in Tuesday's 4-3 win over Seattle. Granderson went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run scored, and started in left field for the first time as a Yankee and fourth time in his career.

"He looked fine to me; I thought he got deep into counts," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Looked good in left field to me. I was happy with what I saw."

After suffering the fractured forearm in spring training, Granderson has been rehabbing to get back and help an ailing Yankees lineup. The team slotted him in the cleanup spot Tuesday night, and while he didn't record a hit, he scored the team's first run in the sixth, and had a pivotal walk in the team's three-run, seventh-inning rally.

With the game tied at 3-3 in the seventh and Robinson Cano on second, Seattle lefty Charlie Furbush intentionally walked Vernon Wells to get the lefty-on-lefty matchup versus Granderson. The Yankees' slugger stayed patient at the plate and earned a walk to load the bases, and Lyle Overbay followed with a sacrifice fly to drive in the winning run.

"You have to stick with your plan and approach," Granderson said of his walk. "If that same situation somehow pops up in the first inning, it's a little bit different since it's the first time around. Since it was my fourth at-bat, things were a little bit simpler, not necessarily easier, but in terms of approach and sticking to the plan and watching him to pitch to other guys up there. It made my focus a little bit easier and trust what I wanted to do."

In left field for the first time since Oct. 2, 2005 with Detroit, Granderson didn't look fluid at all times but made the necessary plays. The Yankees are electing to play Granderson, their starting center fielder last year, in left, while keeping Brett Gardner in center. Granderson was tested early by having to retrieve a double and catch a line drive to his left.

"It was interesting," Granderson said. "As the game kept going on, kept getting more and more comfortable out there and continued to talk to Gardner out there, obviously he's played left field, now he's in center field. It made things a little bit easier to go but there's going to be some new challenges each day out there but we made it through."

Granderson call-up in the works?

May, 13, 2013
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CLEVELAND — As the New York Yankees head home after an eight-game road trip, they may be rejoined by outfielder Curtis Granderson who has played masterfully during his rehabilitation from a fractured forearm which was suffered in late-February.

“We’ll see,” said manager Joe Girardi following the Yankees’ doubleheader split vs. the Indians. “I’ll talk to [general manager Brian Cashman] on what the plans are with Curtis. I know he’s playing tonight. We’ll see where we’re at.”

Granderson, set to play in his fifth rehab game on Monday night, has had at least one hit in all four of his minor-league previous rehab games, including three hits on Sunday. He is batting .412 with a homer at Triple-A Scranton.

Barring a late setback, Granderson could come off the disabled list and rejoin the Yankees’ lineup against the Mariners. If so, Granderson will have missed 38 games with the big league squad after initially being given a 10-week recovery timetable in late February.

“I’ve always said, ‘when Grandy feels that he’s ready, then come on,’ said Girardi. “We want him back in our lineup and if he feels that he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go. Whenever the conversation takes place, we’re open arms.”

The Yankees optioned outfielder Brennan Boesch prior to Monday afternoon’s finale against the Indians. Activating Granderson will mean that Boesch will have even fewer opportunities for at-bats with the big league club, so his demotion it is something that the 28-year-old is at peace with knowing that he cannot improve from his current .205 batting average without getting consistent at-bats.

“This is the role I was given,” said Boesch. “My goal is to be an everyday player. Getting every day at-bats is the first step.”

Granderson, meanwhile, has played all three outfield positions with Scranton. Where he plays in the Yankee outfield upon his return will depend on the three-time All-Star’s comfort level.

“I want to talk to Curtis face-to-face about how he feels playing the different positions,” said Girardi. “The great thing about our outfielders -- the other three -- is that they all can play different positions too. So I want to talk to Curtis face-to-face, see how he felt, and then we’ll make decisions.”

The 32-year-old Granderson is coming off of back-to-back 40-plus home run seasons as a member of the Yankees.

Granderson might not return in center

May, 5, 2013
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Yankees manager Joe Girardi opened the door Sunday for a potential move of Curtis Granderson to a corner outfield spot, saying the team will have to decide in time if Granderson will still man center field when he returns from the disabled list.

Granderson is expected to return in mid-May.

"We might toy around with some other things," Girardi said before the Yankees faced the Athletics.

[+] EnlargeBrett Gardner and Curtis Granderson
AP Photo/Mike CarlsonWho will play center field, Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson? It's up in the air.
In mid-April, Granderson said Girardi had told him he was going to be in center field when he returned, and all his work in Tampa had been in center. The team is now considering other options, as Girardi said Granderson has been getting reps in every outfield spot.

By potentially moving Granderson, the Yankees would keep Brett Gardner in center field. Girardi said there's no concern about how Granderson and Gardner would play next to each other. The two have played together before, but never with Gardner in center and Granderson in the corner.

"My concern is how [Granderson] reacts to the ball in different spots, " Girardi said.

In spring training, the Yankees had been preparing to shift Granderson from center, but his broken right forearm put a halt to those plans. He's nearing a return now: Granderson played in an extended spring training game Wednesday and had four at-bats Saturday, according to The Associated Press. The outfielder was hit by a pitch on his triceps Saturday, but told The Associated Press he's fine.

"He's doing OK. He's not having any setbacks," Girardi said. "I think he had [four] at-bats yesterday so he's going in the right direction."

As the Yankees prep for Granderson's return, they're eventually going to have to make the unenviable decision of sitting one of their current starting outfielders. Vernon Wells has already hit six home runs and bats third in the lineup, while Ichiro Suzuki is heating up after a slow start and is one of the few players on the team who provides speed and can manufacture runs.

"People have asked me a lot about, 'When Grandy comes back, what are you going to do with your outfielders? You have three guys that are playing pretty well,'" Girardi said. "Grandy is going to play, he's a big part of our offense.

"But as we've seen around here, a lot can happen in a couple weeks."

ROBERTSON HOPING TUESDAY: David Robertson (hamstring) will play catch Sunday and throw Tuesday in hopes of being available that night. He said the plan is to throw on flat ground, then go off the mound and see how he feels Tuesday. Robertson last pitched May 1.

"If it feels good, I think I'll be available Tuesday," Robertson said.

The reliever said he feels much better, but there is still some tightness he attributes to his body healing.

HEADED TO TAMPA: Girardi said he's not sure if Ivan Nova (triceps) and Kevin Youkilis (back) will be joining the injured contingent in Tampa. He said catcher Francisco Cervelli (hand) is already there, while first baseman Mark Teixeira (wrist) will be heading down.

Grandy, Nunez & the lineup

April, 14, 2013
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Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson (forearm) shagged some fly balls at Yankee Stadium on Sunday as he continued his rehab. The outfielder threw for the first time this week since breaking his forearm in February, tossing from 60 feet 25 times Thursday and Saturday.

Granderson had told the Associated Press he may have been able to start swinging this week, but he has not done so yet. Granderson said he would start swinging in Florida, where he's done all of his rehab.

"They want the throwing all to be first. The swinging was something that could happen, the timetable of when was to be determined," Granderson said. "After further considerations with the doctors and trainer here and in Florida, it was once the throwing was good to go, we'll start swinging."

A return on May 1 had been mentioned for Granderson, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi believes that might be too soon. Granderson would have to get the proper at-bats, games and defensive work before returning. Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long told Granderson he needs 50 to 70 at-bats during his rehab.

"I think (May 1) is probably maybe a little quick. I don't know," Girardi said. "You basically have to see how a guy's rehab goes. He hasn't swung a bat yet and today's April 14. Until he swings a bat we're not really going to have an idea."

During spring training, Granderson had been preparing to switch to left field, but after his injury, those plans were scrapped and he will continue in center. Girardi confirmed with Granderson a few weeks ago that was still the case, as current center fielder Brett Gardner will instead move to left.

"All my work has been in center field down in Florida," Granderson said before the Yankees faced the Orioles. "And we'll continue out there again today."

NUNEZ OUT:
Infielder Eduardo Nunez (wrist) is feeling better but will miss his second straight game Sunday. Nunez left Friday's game after being hit by a pitch and suffering a right wrist contusion.

The infielder threw Sunday and will swing Monday in hopes of a return Tuesday against Arizona. Nunez said he could be used as a pinch-runner or to play defense in the late innings Sunday. Without Nunez on Saturday, the Yankees used Robinson Cano at shortstop and catcher Francisco Cervelli at second base in the ninth inning due to a depleted roster.

LINEUP: The Yankees have an unusual lineup Sunday as they face left-hander Wei-Yin Chen. Cano has moved from the second spot to third, while Vernon Wells has moved to second. Ben Francisco is batting fifth while Brennan Boesch hits sixth, meaning Ichiro Suzuki and Travis Hafner have the day off.

Girardi explained that with the lefty on the hill, he decided to move Wells, a right-hander, up in the order. Putting Wells between leadoff hitter Brett Gardner and Cano prevents consecutive lefties at the top of the Yankees order.

Where would you play Gardner?

March, 5, 2013
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Joe Girardi has all but abandoned the switch. When Curtis Granderson comes back, he will be in center field and Brett Gardner will be in left field. Girardi said that with Granderson out until May with a broken forearm, he will not have enough time to adjust to the position change.

The approach makes sense, but is it the right one? Under the circumstances, it is logical and more conservative -- but would you do it?

The Yankees’ hierarchy clearly thinks that, in theory, they are better defensively with Gardner in center and Granderson in left. There is no reason to broach the topic if they didn’t feel that way.

With Brian Cashman acknowledging the team will score less runs this season, and with the pitching staff basically the same as last year's, the Yankees were desperately trying to find a way to improve.

Using the advanced defensive metrics and their own eyes, they felt Gardner could save runs in center -- but now they are choosing to halt that plan. Gardner may not even play full-time in center field with Granderson out. The Yankees are choosing comfort over statistics.

QUESTION: DO YOU AGREE WITH NOT GOING THROUGH WITH THE SWITCH OF GARDNER TO CENTER AND GRANDERSON TO LEFT?

Girardi: Never mind the CF shift

March, 3, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- It appears that the great center field experiment has been called off on account of a busted arm.

Joe Girardi said after the Yankees' 5-2 win over the Red Sox in Fort Myers that his idea of swapping Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson in left and center fields is basically kaput because the 10 weeks Granderson will spend on the sideline robs him of the time to learn a new position.

This, of course, was predicted in my column from last week after Granderson's right ulna was broken by a J.A. Happ pitch in his first, and last, at-bat of the spring.

Girardi gave a clue when he started Gardner in left field on Sunday and all but made it official after the game, when he said, "There's a chance I'm going to abandon it."

His reason? The obvious one. "We don't really have the chance to work on it," he said.

Girardi's decision probably means a major league job for Melky Mesa as the starting center fielder until Granderson comes back around May 5, and a full season in left for Gardner.

Mesa, 26, is considered basically a defensive outfielder -- his career batting average in the minors is .244 -- but he did have 23 home runs last season while splitting time between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. His major league batting average is .500; he had a hit in two at-bats as a September call-up last year.

Asked if this meant Mesa would start the season as the Yankees' center fielder, Girardi said, "It could be, if we're playing against left-handers. It could be. We have to see who's going to replace Curtis."

Girardi also raised the possibility that Zoilo Almonte could make the team as well, perhaps putting the fates of veterans Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera, who were expected to vie for the backup outfielder's job, in jeopardy. At the very least, it appears that Almonte, who is batting .308 this spring, will be getting more some work in the outfield the rest of the way.

"It could be, hypothetically, Zoilo Almonte," Girardi said. "Maybe Gardy goes to center, (Ichiro Suzuki) goes to left, Zoilo goes to right. Or Rivera, I could do it that same way. Until I sort out what we have, it's going to be kind of difficult to determine how we do it."

But one thing seems certain: Curtis Granderson, the Yankees' center fielder for the last three seasons, will play most of his game there this season, as well.

First Pitch: Why I hate predicting

February, 25, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Because of things like what happened to Curtis Granderson on Sunday, that's why.

This is the time of the year when editors, fans, family members and friends all have the same questions: How are the Yankees going to do this season? How many wins? Will they win the division? Or -- gasp! -- miss the playoffs altogether?

I hate to tell the truth, because I cover them for a living and am supposed to be omniscient in all things Yankee. But the truth is, I have no idea.

And neither do you, or anyone else, be they so-called experts or just casual fans.

And the reason is simple: With 25 players on a team, 162 games in a season, 30-plus preseason games preceding them and who knows how many bad hops, errant pitches, clumsy slides, thrown bats and other random things that can happen on a ballfield, it's simply impossible to make an intelligent prediction on the outcome of a baseball season.

Coming into 2013, there were plenty of questions about the Yankees' health, but all of them surrounded older players and/or players with histories of injury -- Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte.

But now, barely two weeks into spring training, the Yankess have had Phil Hughes, 26 and seemingly healthy, go down with a back injury suffered in an innocent fielding drill, and Granderson, as fit an athlete as I've ever seen in any sport, lost for 10 weeks to a broken arm in his first at-bat of the spring.

Of all the predictions I could have made about the Yankees, I can assure you I would have missed out on those two.

And the odds are that the ones I might have made, such as Rivera being ineffective at 43 or Jeter being unable to play shortstop everyday coming off his broken ankle, may never come to pass. For all I know, Pettitte may win the Cy Young Award. But there's no way I would predict it.

The injury to Granderson, and the presumed loss of at least some of his expected 35-40 home runs, might affect the Yankees profoundly. Or (as Granderson himself would say), then again it might not.

The Yankees might win 95 games and the AL East all over again. A-Rod might come back in the second half and hit 25 home runs, sparking an offensive resurgence. Michael Pineda might rejoin the club in July and reel off 10 straight wins. Mo might close games like it's 2005 again. Jeter might hit .325 and win a batting title and a long-overdue MVP. They might have to close down lower Broadway this October for a parade.

As Joe Girardi likes to say, I don't have a crystal ball. And yet, any day now, some editor or fan or friend is going to demand that I gaze into one and tell him, or her, or you, how the Yankees will finish up in 2013.

I'm telling you right now, I have no clue.

And whether you want to believe or not, neither have you.

QUESTION: In spite of the previous 500 words, I command you to gaze into your crystal ball and tell me how the Yankees will do this year. Now, isn't that fun?

UP NOW: A Grandy Extravaganza, with my news story on Granderson's injury, and my column on why a busted arm may help Curtis hold onto the center fielder's job. Plus, a blog on that forgotten event of yesterday, namely, the game with the Blue Jays.

COMING SOON: A busy morning, clubhouse open at 8:30 a.m., followed by live BPs thrown by CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera. Then, we jump into our rental cars and drive to Sarasota for this afternoon's game against the Orioles. LHP Vidal Nuno to start and no radio or TV, so only my Twitter feed, @ESPNNYYankees, to keep you up to speed. Check in often and as always, thanks for reading.

Rapid Reaction: Granderson out 'til May

February, 24, 2013
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Curtis GrandersonAP Photo/Matt SlocumCurtis Granderson is hit by a pitch from Toronto's J.A. Happ.
THE NEWS: Curtis Granderson will be out until May after breaking his forearm on Sunday.

WHAT IT MEANS: The already thin Yankees just got even thinner to start the season. Due to injury or failure to re-sign players, the Yankees will arguably be worse on Opening Day at all three outfield positions, catcher, third base and maybe shortstop. They already needed to replace more than 100 home runs from the 2012 mashers. Now they lost Granderson, who hit 43 homers in 2012.

THE REPLACEMENTS: Brett Gardner is now cemented as the Opening Day center fielder. Ichiro Suzuki will start in right and will likely play more against lefties than maybe Joe Girardi would have intended.

So who is in left? Umm, who knows? Two of the players vying for the fourth outfielder spot -- Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera -- suddenly have a great shot to make the team.

Zoilo Almonte, who had a big day Saturday, will have a chance, I suppose, but he is not considered a big-time prospect and has never played above Double-A. Melky Mesa has been in the majors before, but no one in the Yankees organization really included him in the conversation to beat out Diaz or Rivera, despite the fact he is a right-handed hitter.

Two other guys to consider are Cuban right-handed hitters Adonis Garcia and Ronnier Mustelier. They both can hit a little.

HOW ABOUT THE BIG-TIME PROSPECTS? Too soon for any of these guys. Tyler Austin and Mason Williams aren't considered players who will make it to the majors in 2013. Slade Heathcott is intriguing. A scout said he was the best player in the Arizona Fall League. The Oklahoman grew up idolizing Mickey Mantle and he is reforming a checkered past. Still, if he does streak to the majors this season, it is doubtful it would be to begin the year.

TRADES? I've heard you on Twitter, Yankees fans. Giancarlo Stanton? Sounds nice. Miami isn't trading him to the Yankees, just to help out. Sorry. Even if he were available, everyone would be after him and there is no proof the Yankees would have the goods to get him. Others have mentioned Alfonso Soriano. That seems like a more realistic option, but that is total speculation.

NUNEEE? How about putting Eduardo Nuñez in the outfield? Brian Cashman has already eliminated this idea.

Nunez is slated to caddy for Derek Jeter at short.

ISSUE MANAGEMENT: The Yankees were going to use the spring to evaluate if Gardner should be in center and Granderson in left. They knew that made them better defensively, but wanted to see how Granderson reacted to left and if they thought it would impact his bat during the regular season. Now they will have to hold off on those thoughts and make that decision when Granderson returns in May.

Granderson is a free agent after this season, so this does not help his cause. One possibility that could be a positive for the Yankees: If Granderson is held back this year, he might want to come back on a one-year deal to re-establish his market. That is a long way off, so it is a wait-and-see proposition.

QUESTION: WHOM DO YOU WANT TO REPLACE GRANDERSON WITH?

Morning Notes: Girardi watches Grandy

February, 21, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- No big news this morning, just little things that you had to watch for. For instance:

1. GRANDERSON HITS, GIRARDI WATCHES: Center fielder Curtis Granderson, who struggled through 2012 despite leading the team with 43 home runs, had a session in the indoor batting cage this morning and Joe Girardi, who normally wanders out to the back field to watch the pitchers, came down to keep an eye on Grandy instead. And in between rounds -- he alternated with Dan Johnson -- Granderson and Girardi engaged in what appeared to be pretty serious conversation.

Afterward, Girardi wouldn't give me anything about what went on except to say, "You have a keen eye." Oh, yeah, and to remind me not to post the muscle-up video.

Later, Jack Curry of the YES Network tweeted that Grandy would take fly balls in left field today. So that's what that was all about.

2. KURODA ON THE HILL: Hiroki Kuroda will throw a round of live BP at 12:15 p.m. on the main field at Steinbrenner to a group that includes Granderson, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Juan Rivera. None of the other starters or relievers is slated to throw BP today.

3. PHELPS ON TRACK TO START SATURDAY: David Phelps and Adam Warren are throwing side sessions this morning, and assuming both go OK, Phelps will start Saturday's preseason opener against the Braves in Kissimmee and Warren will start Sunday against the Blue Jays at The Boss.

4. NO, TAGUCHI! That was the New York Post headline the morning of Oct. 14, 2006, when So Taguchi, then of the St. Louis Cardinals, belted a ninth-inning home run off Billy Wagner to start the Mets on the road to ruin in the NLCS. Well, Taguchi, now 43 and retired, was in the Yankees' clubhouse this morning, chatting up his Japanese countryman Kuroda. Wonder if Taguchi will stop at St. Lucie while he's in Florida.

First pitch: Center of attention

February, 20, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. -- There may not be very many roster spots available on this team, but there are a couple of jobs up for grabs.

And one that is used to be considered one of the most glamorous jobs in professional sports: center fielder for the New York Yankees.

[+] EnlargeBrett Gardner
Cliff Welch/Icon SMIBrett Gardner as the everyday center fielder? It isn't such a stretch.
Again on Tuesday, Joe Girardi acknowledged that the Yankees are at least "toying with" the idea of switching Brett Gardner to center and shifting Curtis Granderson, who has held the position for the past three seasons, to left.

"The question for us to sit here and stew over is, if you flip-flop 'em, does it make you better defensively?," Girardi said. "That's what we have to figure out. Because it's not just how one guy would do in one position, but how much ground the combination of the two of them would cover. You could try it, or we could just say, you know, we're going to stay the way it is."

The fact that Girardi is even acknowledging the idea tells me the Yankees are likely to kick the tires on it early in spring training, if only because the defensive metrics, which Girardi and his staff love, indicate that Gardner is a significantly better defender than Granderson. Wthout getting into UZR, FSR and TZL, suffice it to say that in 2011, the last time Gardner played a full season, he was off-the-charts good defensively, and last year, Granderson was ranked near the bottom among everyday center fielders.

For an offense that might have difficulty scoring runs this season, preventing runs becomes that much more important.

"There are a lot of things we have to look at," Girardi said. "Do they cover more ground one way or the other? Because they both can run. And they both have strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes a guy goes better one way than the other. How does it all work out? We won't really know until we see it in a game, so I mean i'’s just something we have to evaluate."

Sounds like we're going to get that chance.

QUESTION: Who do you prefer in center field, Gardner or Granderson?

UP NOW: My news story on Phil Hughes' backache, which didn't sound too serious yesterday, as well as assorted blog items from Tuesday's workout, my favorite of which is Derek Jeter's favorite means of self-amusement during spring training. Plus, where does Curtis Granderson want to play next year? Where do you think?

ON DECK: Today is Photo Day, so all players are required to be on the field in home whites at 7:30 a.m. Thankfully, however, the clubhouse does not open to the media until 9:40. I'll be there when it opens so be ready for plenty of stuff, including Hughes' assessment of his injury and when he should be able to return to action. I'll also have a live chat this afternoon at 2:30, so check in often. And as always, thanks for reading.

Will Grandy be back in Bronx in '14?

February, 19, 2013
2/19/13
5:08
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TAMPA, Fla. -- In the past three years, no Yankee has hit as many home runs as Curtis Granderson has. In fact, no one has come closer than a dozen away from the 108 bombs the Grandy Man has launched in pinstripes since he came over from Detroit in a three-way trade before the 2010 season.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Granderson
John Munson/The Star-Ledger/USA TODAY SportsCurtis Granderson signs autographs Tuesday at Steinbrenner Field.
Take it a step further: Which major league hitter has the most home runs over the past two seasons? Granderson again. His 84 homers in 2011 and 2012 are better than Miguel Cabrera's and Ryan Braun's 74, Jose Bautista's 70, Josh Hamilton's 68 and Albert Pujols' 67.

Granderson's left-handed power stroke seems tailor-made for the invitingly short right-field fence at his home ballpark, yet if you were to make a bet, the odds are Granderson will not be a Yankee after this season.

"I would love to play with the Yankees next year," Granderson said in the clubhouse at The Boss after Tuesday's workout. "It's been great. I've enjoyed my time here, and if the opportunity presents itself I would love to remain."

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But, he added, "It's out of my hands. All I can control is getting myself ready for the season and hopefully help this team win a championship."

All indications are the Yankees are inclined to bid farewell to Granderson when he becomes a free agent after this year, for a couple of reasons: Hal Steinbrenner's $189 million payroll ceiling seems to render it impossible for the club to retain both Granderson and Robinson Cano, and besides, the Yankees don't seem nearly as in love with Granderson as they were, say, in 2011, when he seemed to have reinvented himself as a home run hitter after struggling in his first season as a Yankee.

Even though Granderson hit 43 home runs last year, the Yankees were dismayed by his soaring strikeout total -- a career-high and all-time Yankees record 195 -- and plummeting batting average (.232), OBP (.319) and OPS (.811, down from .916 in 2011). Most alarming was his average against left-handed pitching, which fell to .218 after having risen to .272 in 2011.

Plus, the talk of switching him to left in favor of Brett Gardner in center also seems to indicate the Yankees aren't in love with Granderson's defense anymore, either. According to the website FanGraphs.com, Granderson ranked at or near the bottom in every advanced defensive metric among every-day center fielders.

Morning Notes: Cano, Jeter, Gardner

February, 18, 2013
2/18/13
11:57
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TAMPA, Fla. -- Another cool day down here, though it is expected rise to the mid-60s by the afternoon.

CANO CONFERENCE: Robinson Cano's news conference is expected to take place later this afternoon. It will be interesting to hear how Cano answers questions about his impending free agency and Biogenesis. Cano's name hasn't been involved in the PED story, but two players he is close with -- Melky Cabrera and Alex Rodriguez -- have been named, so Cano will likely be asked about it.

OFF & RUNNING?: Derek Jeter could run today. Jeter said on Sunday that he didn't know exactly when he would get the green light, but it would be in the next few days, possibly as early as Monday. If he does, of course, that will be news.

WIN ONE FOR THE SKIPPER: Today is the first full workout for the entire Yankees squad. Joe Girardi planned on addressing his team. Girardi is in the final year of his contract.

IN THE DARK: I had a nice conversation with Brett Gardner this morning. He doesn't know if he will be moving to center, but he would prefer to play what he considers his natural position. Of course, he said he will do whatever management wants. The Yankees will decide if Curtis Granderson can handle the move to left. They want him to be able to handle the defense, while making sure it doesn't impact his offense.

The House that Grandy Built

February, 7, 2013
2/07/13
3:25
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Call it the House that Grandy Built. University of Illinois at Chicago will name its new stadium after Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson.

From ESPN Chicago:

University of Illinois at Chicago will name its new baseball stadium after Yankees center fielder and UIC alum Curtis Granderson, who provided what is expected to be the largest contribution to the school's athletic department.

Curtis Granderson Stadium will serve UIC's baseball team and Chicago's area youth, the school announced.

"There are a lot of people in the community that are in the same situation I was in 15 to 20 years ago," Granderson said in a statement. "Now, I am in a position where I have the ability to help kids pursue whatever dreams they have, whether they are educational, athletic or just life in general. I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to team up with UIC, which has helped me get to where I am today."

Granderson announced his intentions for the stadium at a dinner hosted by UIC to retire his No. 28 jersey on Wednesday.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jacoby Ellsbury
BA HR RBI R
.271 15 67 69
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Teixeira 21
RBIJ. Ellsbury 67
RB. Gardner 81
OPSB. Gardner .770
WM. Tanaka 12
ERAH. Kuroda 3.81
SOM. Tanaka 135