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MINNEAPOLIS -- To go along with Derek Jeter and Joe Girardi, the New York Yankees have another important member of their team who will be a free agent at the end of this postseason.
He is hitting coach Kevin Long. If this were the NFL, Long, 43, would be the young, hot assistant on the short list to lead a team.
Baseball is more of a specialty sport so, at least for now, Long is pigeonholed as a hitting coach.
Still, Long is building a strong case for a raise. Especially with the well-documented work he has done with Curtis Granderson.
Granderson was at it again in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, hitting the ball with authority, going 3-for-4 (including a double) and scoring a run in the Yankees' 5-2 win over the Twins on Thursday. The Yankees are up two games to none, and Granderson has been in the middle of it all -- which would have been unimaginable two months ago.
Back in August, Granderson looked like a lost cause, a guy guaranteed to be sitting on the bench when lefties started in the playoffs -- and maybe even when righties were on the mound. But Girardi gave Granderson two days off to work with Long.
Granderson went from a closed stance to an open stance. He moved his hands back. And he kept both hands on the bat throughout the swing.
Long then added one more ingredient.
"I think the biggest thing he gives you is the level of confidence, no matter what the result happens to be," Granderson said. "I remember specifically when we were out there in Texas and I am out there taking batting practice. To me, everything felt very uncomfortable. And he's like, 'Man, you are looking great. The ball is jumping off your bat.' So I'm like, 'Hey, I must be doing something right.'"
|Curtis Granderson is 4-for-8 with three RBIs in the ALDS.|
Without Long, what has started out as a magical postseason for Granderson probably doesn't happen. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman wants Long back because Long can relate to guys from Alex Rodriguez to the 25th man on the team.
"Basically, he gets the players' trust," Cashman said. "He knows the mechanics of the swing but he also speaks their language. He is essentially around their age. He has a chance to be their friend, as well as be an instructor. He knows what he is doing, and they trust him. It is a lethal combination."
"He knows how to teach a player in a lot of different ways," Girardi said. "When you are trying to teach players, your verbiage that you use with one player may not work with another. You might try something totally different. Or you might have to try something three or four times for him to understand what you are talking about. K-Long is good at that."
Long isn't a Charlie Lau-type who has his way of doing things and tries to make the hitter adapt.
"[Long] tries to help each individual instead of having one philosophy for everyone," said Jeter, who has looked better ever since a Long session in September and who had an RBI single Thursday.
If the Yankees keep rolling the way they have the first two games and Granderson keeps hitting the way he has since his adjustments in August, Long will be in line for an even bigger raise. For now, he is satisfied with where he is at in his career. But with his interpersonal skills, maybe one day he could be a manager.
"I just want to keep plugging away," Long said. "I want to be the best hitting coach I can be. Hopefully, it is with the New York Yankees for a long time."
The feeling is mutual. Especially with what Granderson is turning into.
Andrew Marchand covers baseball for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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