12/17/09 2:42 PM EST
Yanks introduce Granderson to big stage
Club welcomes outfielder in news conference at Stadium
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
It is a career change that Granderson and the Yankees both hope will work out in a big way. The newest acquisition was formally introduced on Thursday at Yankee Stadium, donning the pinstripes just a few hundred feet from where he will soon patrol center field.
"I'm excited to get a chance to be here with the defending world champions," Granderson said. "Hopefully we can look to repeat and add titles throughout the course of my career and be in the great city of New York."
Joined by teammates CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez, Granderson donned his new cap and jersey for the flickering cameras, while his new organization gushed about the quality athlete and man they had acquired.
"I'm excited. He's just a great young man," said Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. "Obviously we all know about his ability, but it's his character that I'm equally excited about. He's going to be a great, great fit in our clubhouse."
The left-handed-hitting Granderson belted 30 home runs last season with the Tigers, and after being acquired last week in a three-team, seven-player deal, New York is confident that his stroke will play well within Yankee Stadium's cozy dimensions.
"It doesn't look as small as everyone says it is," Granderson said. "The numbers speak for themselves. Guys have had great years here. To get a chance to be here 81 days out of the year and hopefully into the postseason, the main thing is to do what I've done.
"I've never been a guy who considers myself a home run hitter. I can't go up there and just try to hit a home run -- I don't have that ability like, say, Alex Rodriguez."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that the team has admired Granderson since 2006, when his Tigers ousted New York from the American League Division Series. Just as important in making the move was Granderson's personality, which should mesh well in the dugout.
"Obviously we're very excited about what Curtis brings to our club," manager Joe Girardi said. "Athleticism is something that I love, and that's what we're getting. He has outstanding character and I know he will be a leader on and off the field."
Granderson hit .249 with 71 RBIs and 20 stolen bases as an All-Star for the Tigers last season, and said that he was not concerned with trade rumors until he started getting text messages en masse on the morning of Nov. 8.
Turning on the television to check out reports, he learned that the Yankees were close to acquiring his services for three players -- outfielder Austin Jackson and pitchers Phil Coke and Ian Kennedy.
"It was amazing, the number of text messages that can go in a matter of seconds," Granderson said. "I'm glad I got an unlimited plan."
Granderson said that the thought of joining the Yankees' storied tradition appeals to him, and the name of Bernie Williams came up often during a dinner conversation in New York on Wednesday -- an ideal mix of success and performance that Granderson would do well to equal.
"To get a chance to say, 'Hey, I play for the Yankees,' fans all over the world know that," Granderson said. "There's no question of, 'What city is that?' They know the Yankees. I never knew this day would come, but I'm very excited about it."
One caveat the Yankees had in making the trade were Granderson's splits against left-handed pitching. He batted just .183 with two homers in 180 at-bats against southpaws in 2009, and former AL Central rival Sabathia has an idea why.
"I think earlier in his career, when he first came up, he was driving balls to left field, and I think he was tougher on lefties then," Sabathia said. "He was hitting the ball in the gap in left-center.
"Then he started hitting a few home runs and got a little pull-happy. I think that's why lefties were able to stay away from him and throw slower stuff and have success against him."
To help fix the situation, Granderson said that he'd like to talk to Sabathia about the way he was pitched -- two-seamers in and plenty of outs away, Sabathia said -- and also check with Robinson Cano, who has hit lefties well in his career.
But the most important advice will come from hitting coach Kevin Long, with whom Granderson spoke on Monday and is planning to see after he completes working out with outfielder Nick Swisher.
"I think the biggest factor for us is the Kevin Long factor," Rodriguez said. "Any player you bring into our lineup has an opportunity to improve by 10 or 15 percent over what he did in a previous ballpark by coming here with our lineup, the way we talk hitting and our philosophies."
If the season were to begin today, Granderson would be New York's No. 2 hitter against right-handed pitchers and likely slot lower against lefties, a decision that is subject to change. But there is no doubt that the Yankees believe he will be an impact player in New York.
"Anytime you can add a guy like that to the lineup that we have, it's exciting," Sabathia said. "He plays a great centerfield and in this ballpark, he'll probably hit 50 home runs. We'll see."
Granderson selected to take an old high school uniform No. 14, instead of his customary No. 28. That clears the way for Girardi to take hold of the digits representing the club's quest for a 28th World Series title.
"I've never been tied down or superstitious to the number, so I said, 'Let's go with it,'" Granderson said. "Worst-case scenario, if we win, I can get the number next year."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.