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Wednesday, March 27, 2013
First Pitch: How Grand a season?

By Wallace Matthews

TAMPA, Fla. -- Over the past two seasons, Curtis Granderson has hit more home runs (84) than any other player in baseball. Last year, only one player topped Granderson's 43 bombs for the Yankees, and that was Miguel Cabrera, who not only hit for the Triple Crown but won the AL MVP as well.

Despite his protestations to the contrary, Granderson is a bona fide home run hitter, especially with the cozy right field fence at Yankee Stadium, and with the defections of Nick Swisher and Russell Martin and the injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, is along with Robinson Cano one of only two legitimate power bats in their lineup.

And even with his struggles last year against lefties and his plummeting batting average, the Yankees were penciling Granderson in for another 35-40 home run season.

All that fell to pieces, however, the first time Granderson came to bat this spring, when a pitch from J.A. Happ fractured Granderson's ulna just above his right wrist. Now, all estimates of how many times Granderson will leave the building this season have to be adjusted. Downward.

And accordingly, both Dan Szymborski of ZiPs projections and Bill James have lowered their expectations of Granderson's 2013 production by about 20 percent from 2013; Szymborski says 33 HRs, James says 34.

Originally, I was going to set the over/under on Granderson's HRs at 35, but because he will miss the first five weeks of the season, I think a more appropriate number is 30.

And I have reasons to think Granderson will exceed that, even in an injury-shortened season. For one thing, he is in a contract year, and it is looking more likely the Yankees will let him go. That's always a strong motivator.

The other is that short right field fence, which has been so inviting to Granderson in his first three seasons as a Yankee, and since it hasn't been moved back, it probably will be again this year.

So I'm pegging Granderson for 35 home runs this season. Now it's your turn.

QUESTION: How many home runs will Curtis Granderson hit this season?

UP NOW: My stories on Derek Jeter's realization that Opening Day 2013 will happen without him, and Vernon Wells' first day on the job as a New York Yankee. Plus, blogs on Lyle Overbay's arrival and last night's game, which was CC Sabathia's final tuneup for the season opener.

ON DECK: A Hot Button in which Andrew Marchand and myself will tackle the question of whether or not Joe Girardi's job is in jeopardy if the Yankees fail to make the playoffs this season. Also, Phil Hughes is pitching in a minor league game here at 1:05 p.m., and then we take one more trip over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge for the final road game of the spring when the Yankees go to Sarasota to play the Orioles at 7:05 p.m. David Phelps (2-3, 3.97 this spring) faces RHP Jair Jurrjens (1-1, 4.61). No radio or TV but I'll have live in-game updates via my Twitter feed, @ESPNNYYankees. Check in often and as always, thanks for reading.