It's a matter of timing for Granderson
Center fielder finding his rhthym near end of Spring Training
LAKELAND, Fla. -- When Tigers manager Jim Leyland gave center fielder Curtis Granderson some extra time off in early Spring Training games, he said it would pay off down the road. This was sooner than what Leyland had in mind, but he'll take it.
On a day when Leyland noted how many mid- to upper-90s fastballs were flying out of the ballpark, Granderson did the bulk of it for Detroit. He entered the day with two home runs and four RBIs all spring, but he matched both of those totals in one solid game against the Yankees.
Granderson didn't want to make much of it, but at least for a day, it showed that his timing is progressing.
"You've got to assume early-season and midseason fastballs are going to be a little different," Granderson said, "even though the velocity was there [today]. It's one day. Can't take too much out of it. The big thing today was getting my timing down."
Granderson hadn't been racking up many at-bats over consecutive days until earlier this week, a move that was by design.
"I've been kind of watching him, because he goes at it so hard," Leyland said, "and it's probably messed up his timing at the plate a little bit. I'm not worried about that at all. He's going to be fine."
For all that was made of Gary Sheffield's 0-for-14 start, Granderson had a hitless stretch that lasted 18 at-bats from March 5 until he tripled in his third at-bat on Thursday.
"Sometimes when you protect them a little bit, they get out of whack a little bit," Leyland added. "You have to be careful about that. There comes a time when you have to start pushing again. That's probably what happened to him, and it's nobody's fault but mine, but I think in the long run it'll pay off."
Granderson was in the starting lineup on Friday night against Astros, but rain stopped that after one inning. His timing still might not be where he wants it, but he had Joba Chamberlain's fastball timed pretty well.
Granderson was the first Tiger for Chamberlain to face, and he connected on a 97-mph fastball deep to right-center field. Two innings later, he turned on another Chamberlain challenge and lined it down the right-field line and into the corner for a one-out triple scoring Jacque Jones.
Chamberlain and Tigers starter Justin Verlander ended up chatting after their respective outings were finished. The topic eventually turned to Granderson.
"His hands going through the zone are incredible," Chamberlain said later.
Chamberlain left after three innings in favor of Minor Leaguer Ross Ohlendorf, who got to face Granderson with two outs and a runner on third. Again, Granderson timed a fastball and went with it, powering it high off the right-field scoreboard.
The total damage: Four RBIs, three runs scored, 11 total bases, and a pretty good way to get himself started on a closing stretch after working the last couple days on regaining his rhythm.
"Curtis is going to start playing quite a bit," Leyland said.
When Leyland said before the game that he wanted to get his everyday lineup some consistent playing time over the final two weeks, Granderson was one of the targets. Aside from Granderson's scheduled off-day on Monday -- every player receives one day of their choosing that they can take completely off -- Granderson is expected to see some playing time in every game from here on out.
That's fine with Granderson, who has some facets of his game that he wants to fill out before returning to Detroit in exactly two weeks. For one thing, he wants to work on his basestealing, since he hasn't attempted a steal yet this spring. He doesn't have to be successful, he said; he just needs to get the timing and leads down in those situations.
He's also looking forward to dealing with fly balls in night games so he can get used to that again. Beyond that, he'll be a big part of team drills on fundamentals, from baserunning to cutoffs and relays.
With all the work to do, it took him a while to realize why he was resting in games early. He initially thought he had done something wrong. Once fellow outfielder Jones explained it to him, he got it.
"I don't feel tired," he said. "Physically, I'm not. Mentally, I'm not. But I'm understanding it now."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.