Before Tuesday, Curtis Granderson’s experience as a left fielder consisted of 57 innings and 14 successful chances with the Tigers. The first 10 came during a 20-game stint in 2005 and the other four occurred in two games in 2007.
Now it appears he will get a lot more opportunities in left field after being activated from the disabled list Tuesday and being placed there instead of Brett Gardner, who will remain the center fielder.
The Yankees planned on using Granderson in left field during spring training but that plan had to be scrapped after he broke his forearm after getting hit with a J.A. Happ pitch on Feb. 24.
Granderson didn’t have the opportunity to get the feel for reading balls off the bat or taking the proper route in left field in spring training. Instead he had to do those things during extended spring training and in minor league rehab games.
During his rehab games, Granderson appeared in right field and left field. He had one chance in left and one in right.
If a ball is hit to him in left field, it will be his first putout at the position since Sept. 2, 2007 in Oakland when he caught a line drive by Mark Ellis in the eighth inning.
“I’m ready to play,” Granderson said. “It doesn’t matter where it happens to be. I’ve said that before. I got a chance to work in both right and left down in the minor leagues so I’ll be as ready as I can for that. Obviously the big-league stage is going to be a little challenge as well so I’ll go out there today and take the first step.”
The other main challenge will be arm strength. Granderson’s arm strength has been regarded as slightly below average but that was based mostly as a center fielder where he would have make throws from 400 feet away on balls hit to the warning track. At Yankee Stadium, the distance is 399 in left center field and 318 down the left-field line.
“Arm strength is pretty good. It’s just a matter of getting throws, feeling it, having pressure and having guys move base to base and having plays at certain bases like that, just different things that I’m going to adjust with and different elements — if it’s wet, if it’s dry, sun, day, night, twilight and all that good stuff,” Granderson said.
“You only can try to be in those situations as much as possible but today will be a lot more firsts than I have had the previous couple of weeks.”
Before Granderson’s return, the Yankees have made 72 putouts and fielded 74 chances without an error from the trio. Vernon Wells has made 66 putouts while Ichiro Suzuki has five and Ben Francisco has one.
“The main thing I want to do is just go out there and get balls off the bat. You can’t mirror game-like swings and game-like intensity until you’re actually out there,” Granderson said. “I got a chance to talk to Vernon Wells who has been playing exceptional out there. I got a chance to talk to Brett Gardner who has played a lot out there and having him in center out there tonight is definitely going to help.”
The other change for Granderson involves protecting himself at the plate after suffering breaks in his hand and forearm three times in seven years. Granderson will be wearing protective padding on his arm and his elbow but it doesn’t seem that it will be as noticeable.
“Might as well be safe than sorry,” he said. “Three times over the course of seven years in the big leagues, it’s been broken, so you start talking about the right hand and all those things that can set you back, you might as well cover up. I’ve been fortunate but if you got the opportunity to protect yourself you might as well do it.”
Hafner sits, undergoes MRI
After carrying the Yankee offense along with Robinson Cano in April by hitting .318, Travis Hafner has batted .133 (4-for-30) this month with two strikeouts.
Hafner went 2-for-17 on the road trip and sat out with a sore shoulder that has been bothering him for a while.
“He’s managed it and he’s played through it,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s been fairly productive for us. But we’re just taking some precautionary things to see where he’s at and make sure we’re not missing anything.”
Nuno impresses, returns to minors
Vidal Nuno impressed the Yankees by allowing three hits in five innings during the second game of Monday’s doubleheader in Cleveland but his next start will be Saturday for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre
After not pitching for 13 days, Nuno threw 89 pitches. He became the first Yankee to throw at least five scoreless innings in his first major-league start since Jorge DePaula in the second game of a doubleheader against Baltimore on Sept. 26, 2003.
“They were shocked that I went that long,” Nuno said. “It gave me the confidence that I can do this every five days after 13 days off. It was good, just knowing that I can pitch up here. I showed everybody that I belong here.”
Wedge praises Bay and Perez
Mets fans rarely had anything good to say about Jason Bay and Oliver Perez. Perez was signed to a three-year, $36 million deal in 2009, while Bay signed for four years and $66 million. Both were signed by former general manager Omar Minaya and released before the end of their deals.
However, both are with the Mariners and playing somewhat significant roles on a team which came into Yankee Stadium at 18-20.
After three disappointing seasons highlighted by injuries and underachievement with the Mets, Bay came into last night hitting .253, a figure boasted by a .361 (13-for-36) average against left-handed pitching. Bay never hit higher than .259 with the Mets and batted .172 (16-for-93) off lefties last year.
“He’s a consummate professional,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. “He comes to the ballpark and he’s ready to play every day but he understands that with what’s going on with everybody else he may not be in there. But I’ve been trying to get him as much at-bats [as possible] against left-handers and give him some opportunities against right-handers. He’s made some real adjustments. He’s done some things to right himself a little bit and it’s been a help to us.”
Wedge didn’t say what adjustments but described them as subtle things such as cutting down the movement.
As for Perez, whose velocity dipped to 88 mph in 2010, he has become part of the late-inning mix in the bullpen since signing with the Mariners last year. He had a 2.42 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP in 33 appearances last year.
The stint was highlighted by 20-straight scoreless appearances but this year Perez has been even better.
Twelve of Perez’s 14 appearances have been scoreless and he has 1.26 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. Last year his fastball averaged nearly 94 mph and this year it has averaged nearly 93 mph.
“It’s a second career for him out of the bullpen and he’s really taken to it,” Wedge said. “He’s rearing it up there but it’s not just that. He has multiple pitches that he can throw out there against right-handers and left-handers and he really competes.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.