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Friday, September 30, 2011
Granderson pumped up to face Tigers

By Rob Parker
ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- Curtis Granderson would never say so -- he's just not cut like that. But he was really hurt when the Detroit Tigers dumped him two years ago.

Yes, dumped.

That's what you call trading away a young, rising star who happened to be a fan favorite. Granderson was more than just a good player, he had embraced the community. It wasn't PR stuff, either. It was the real deal.

Hence, when that trade was announced after the 2009 season, fans in Motown were mad. Some were perplexed by the move. Others felt it was just the Tigers' way of cutting payroll, by replacing Granderson -- a proven player who hit 30 homers that season -- with rookie Austin Jackson from the New York Yankees' farm system.

Tigers fans softened their anger about his departure, though, when Jackson played like the American League Rookie of the Year right out of the gate.

Granderson, meanwhile, was struggling in Da Bronx. Then he got hurt, and was out of sight, out of mind.

That isn't the case anymore. Fans all over Baseball America know who Granderson is after having the best season of his career in 2011. It included 41 home runs, the second-most in the majors. For sure, homers get you noticed.

Tigers fans are worried that Granderson -- now 30 and in the prime of his career -- would love nothing more than to pay back the Tigers for getting rid of him. No doubt he wants to deliver at Yankee Stadium, but even more at Comerica Park, the place he called home the first five years of his career.

On Granderson's first trip back there in May, he got a wonderful reception from the fans.

This time, the anticipation level is sky high. Granderson was asked Thursday if he was desensitized to the "D'' yet. "I think, especially since I got the chance to go play there [in May], definitely helps a little bit because I didn't get a chance to do that last year,'' Granderson said. "Now getting a chance to play there and play here and spring training, I got all those firsts out of the way and obviously, this is another first because it's the postseason.

"But getting a chance to do all the other stuff makes the lead up to it not as big but at the same time, the whole moment is still exciting."

Curtis Granderson
Curtis Granderson has flourished in pinstripes this season.

Many people are looking forward to seeing what he can do in the postseason. The Yankees would not have been able to grab the most wins in the American League without Granderson, who batted .262 and knocked in 119 runs. Easily he was the Yankees' MVP in the regular season.

When you think about all the injures the Yankees suffered through this season -- and the fact that cleanup hitter Alex Rodriguez put up subpar statistics when he wasn't sidelined -- someone had to pick up that slack. It was Granderson who did just that.

There were so many big hits along the way. And there's no reason to believe that will stop as the calendar gets ready to turn to October and the stage in baseball gets bigger.

Granderson will face Tigers ace Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium on Friday night. Both have a lot of respect for each other. "I've seen his numbers and they're amazing,'' Verlander said. "The big transformation for him has been his success against left-handed pitchers.

"I know when he played with us when he was younger, he had some trouble against lefties. He's really turned that around from what I've heard.''

Granderson said he doesn't believe he has an edge because he played behind Verlander and watched him work his magic so often from center field. "We'll have to do a little homework on each other and see where we will be at the end of the day,'' Granderson said.

Some have marveled as Granderson's breakout season, but not the Tigers. They were around Grandy for years and know how he operates. "Knowing him as a person, I know his work ethic is second to none,'' Verlander said. "He's going to do everything he can to be the best player he can be.''

Detroiters can only hope they won't get to see it in this best-of-five series. "I'm excited -- excited I get a chance to play against them, excited we're in the postseason, excited they are in the postseason,'' Granderson said.