Curtis Granderson introduced by Mets, stokes rivalry with Yankees

Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson answers a question during Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson answers a question during a news conference on Dec. 10, 2013. Photo Credit: AP

advertisement | advertise on newsday

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - In the 11 years since signing his first professional contract, change has been a constant for the Mets' newest outfielder, Curtis Granderson.

Emboldened by his willingness to listen, coaches often have reworked what he called his "different and evolving" swing, a trend that continued with the Yankees. In the last four seasons, few were better at exploiting the Stadium's rightfield porch than Granderson.

Yet, as Granderson slipped on a Mets jersey for the first time Tuesday, the three-time All-Star shrugged off the potential effects of trading a hitter's paradise for spacious Citi Field.

"It's going to be another modification," said Granderson, whom the Mets formally introduced at the winter meetings.

Granderson, 32, smoothly handled his latest transition. He honored his mother's request when he turned toward the television cameras and said, "Mom, if you're watching, hello." He thanked general manager Sandy Alderson for the "yummy salmon" dinner that served as the launching point toward a four-year, $60-million contract.

Then Granderson took a playful swipe at the Yankees.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"A lot of the people I've met in New York have always said true New Yorkers are Mets fans," said Granderson, whose words are usually far more tame.

The Mets didn't mind. Alderson said several factors led him to target Granderson, including his proven ability to thrive despite the pressures of playing in New York.

The Yankees never looked willing to offer a four-year deal. The Red Sox showed interest but it led nowhere. The Chicago native sensed only modest interest from the Cubs and White Sox. That left the Mets, who pursued Granderson early, then won him over by becoming the only team to offer a fourth year.

"I'm glad again the Mets were there constantly on me and pushing and showing the interest," Granderson said. "You want to go where you're needed and wanted, and the Mets definitely wanted me."

Team insiders say the Mets envision Granderson as a corner outfielder, although neither Alderson nor manager Terry Collins committed to any decisions. But Collins wasn't shy about his plans to bat Granderson cleanup, calling him "the perfect guy" to offer lineup protection for David Wright.

Granderson can only offer that protection if he maintains his power at Citi Field. Data recording the distance of his home runs have given the Mets confidence that he will remain a threat. Although his strikeout rate has risen, he has balanced that spike with an uptick in homers, despite hitting only seven last season when two freakish injuries limited him to 61 games.

Meanwhile, the Mets tied the Braves for the NL lead in strikeouts but ranked 11th in home runs.

"Home run hitters strike out," Collins said. "That's not a concern of mine. The concern was we have a lineup that struck out a lot and didn't produce and didn't hit balls out of the ballpark."

In Granderson, the Mets were willing to bet on the power of adaptability. With the Tigers, he thrived at expansive Comerica Park. With the Yankees, he had back-to-back 40-plus homer seasons.

Twice he compiled his career-high .552 slugging percentage, though in vastly different ways. In 2007, Granderson's 23 triples and 23 homers at Comerica aided his power numbers. In 2011, he bashed 41 homers for the Yankees and was fourth in MVP voting.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

At Citi Field, Granderson intends to adjust accordingly.

"I've never gone up to a situation trying to do anything up there except for to get a good pitch and try to do some damage with it," he said. "So in Citi Field, some of that damage might be a little different than others."

You also may be interested in: