When Curtis Granderson returns, it likely will be in centerfield

Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson warms up for

Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson warms up for his first day of practice. (Feb. 18, 2013) (Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Brett Gardner started in leftfield Sunday. It's a position that is not his preference but one at which he's excelled and is likely to play for a good portion of 2013.

After the Yankees' 5-2 victory over the Red Sox here, a game in which Melky Mesa got the start in centerfield, Joe Girardi said that when Curtis Granderson returns in May, he's all but assured of returning to his desired position.

"We don't really have a chance to work on it," Girardi said of Granderson moving over to leftfield, a position at which he has minimal experience.

The Yankees had toyed with shifting Granderson to left and Gardner to center, an experiment that lasted a half-inning before Granderson suffered a broken right forearm Feb. 24 against the Blue Jays, costing him 10 weeks.

"I don't know how many games he would have in it in his rehab coming back, and that's a concern for me," Girardi said. "I want him to feel comfortable wherever he's at because his bat's real important to us."

Mesa, a 25-year-old from the Dominican Republic, has considerable speed and defensive ability. He is among the young outfielders competing for a spot in Granderson's absence. Girardi said hypothetically that if Mesa breaks camp with the Yankees, he wants him in as comfortable a position as possible.

Zoilo Almonte (23) and Ronnier Mustelier (28) also are competing for an outfield spot.

"If Mesa's the guy that goes, he's played mostly centerfield, so Gardy would have to move to left in that situation," Girardi said. "I have to play with it because I don't know who we're taking."

What seems certain is this: When Granderson returns, he'll be back in the position he never wanted to leave -- centerfield.

Jeter OK with fewer HRs

Derek Jeter is fine with the likelihood of the Yankees hitting far fewer homers this season.

"We didn't win with the home runs," Jeter said after working out Sunday morning. "We hit a lot of home runs last year but we didn't win. I think it would be different if we'd won and you'd be like, 'Oh, how are we going to win?' But we didn't win. Try something different."

As for his return to the field, Jeter said he's not putting a date on it, even though general manager Brian Cashman already has -- March 10.

"I'll play as soon as I can, whether it's before or after [the 10th]," Jeter said. "I have not run full speed. I'm sure I'll do that before I play. I don't know what that is."

Regardless, Jeter isn't concerned about Opening Day.

"The goal is April," Jeter said. "Getting in spring training games, that's secondary."

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