Curtis Granderson looks to rebound in exciting new situation

Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson answers a question during

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

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Within five minutes of stepping from his blacked-out Jeep Wrangler, Curtis Granderson had dropped his oversized duffle bag at his locker and was in the Mets' dugout, taking a long gaze around Tradition Field Sunday afternoon.

"I think the last time I was here was maybe '07 or '08," said Granderson, who spent his previous spring trainings with the Tigers in Lakeland or the Yankees in Tampa. "I played in the Florida State League here in 2003. It's been a while and a lot of stuff is very foreign to me."

After four years with the Yankees, Granderson signed a four-year, $60-million deal with the Mets. It was a relief to feel wanted after an injury-plagued 2013 season in which he played 61 games, batted .229, scored 31 runs and managed only 15 RBIs. That was a far cry from the American League-leading 119 RBIs and 136 runs he posted in 2011.

"I wasn't sure what was going to happen, especially after the year that I had," said Granderson, who fractured his forearm when he was hit by a pitch in his first spring training game last year and had surgery on his left pinkie after being plunked during the season.

"The fact that the Mets contacted me early on and that David Wright reached out to me -- those were two big things that showed me that this was an organization that wants me."

A healthy Granderson figures to provide a combination of power and speed. Fourth in the American League MVP voting in 2011 after hitting 41 homers, he followed up with 43 homers in 2012. But his average plummeted from .262 to .232.

A lefthanded batter, Granderson is strikeout-prone (195 in 2012), especially against lefthanded pitching. The .261 career hitter's splits are a .274 average with a .519 slugging percentage against righthanders, .226 and .409 against lefties.

With Detroit in 2007, he stole 26 bases and led the American League with 23 triples.

"I hope I'm still peaking," said Granderson, who turns 33 March 16. "I've never been a guy to write down my stats and say, 'This is what I want to do.'

"The best thing is that [Citi Field] is a big ballpark, and as long as you touch some grass, you get to use your feet a little bit. That's what I'm all about."

The Mets' outfield features speed, with Granderson joining Chris Young, Eric Young Jr. and Juan Lagares. Each has the range to play center.

"It's awesome," he said. "You have youth, you have experience, you have energy and you have athleticism. I've talked to E.Y. and to C.Y. quite a bit this offseason. It's cool that we've already communicated."

Granderson said he tries to model himself after Derek Jeter when it comes to integrity, personality and baseball vision.

"It was awesome to play alongside him," he said. "From a distance, you see a guy so talented and you assume [his abilities are] God-given. [But] the reason he is so graceful, so athletic, so talented and so successful is all the things he does at his age off the field, when nobody's looking."

Apology for remark. Granderson issued an apology for a remark he made at his introductory Mets news conference, when he said: "A lot of people have told me real New Yorkers are Mets fans."

"It definitely wasn't a shot by any means," he said. "The [Yankees] organization, from top to bottom, including the fans, has been absolutely amazing to me . . . I highly look forward to communication with Yankees fans, baseball fans, Tigers fans. It's just going to be great to see as many people with NY orange tattoos as NY pinstripe tattoos."

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