Brian Cashman said his interest in Curtis Granderson predated this offseason when it became known the Tigers were willing to deal the centerfielder.

It was October 2006 when Granderson's Tigers knocked the Yankees from the playoffs in four games.

"Ever since you guys knocked us out of the playoffs and you were one of the reasons why, we admired [you] from the other side of the field in our dugout," the Yankees general manager said to Granderson yesterday morning as the Yankees officially welcomed him to the Bronx.

The personable Granderson, who wore No. 28 in Detroit but was presented with No. 14 Thursday, said he was thrilled to be in pinstripes.

"To get a chance to be here and a part of it [tradition] is an honor," Granderson said.

A tradition, he said, that is recognized worldwide.

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"One thing that I've learned over my world travels - being in China, being in Africa, being in Europe, Latin America - when you mention Major League Baseball, it's not as recognized everywhere in the world," said Granderson, an ambassador for MLB International. "But when [people] do talk about it, the Yankees are the first team that comes up.

"To get a chance to be a part of that now and to say, 'Hey, I play for the Yankees,' fans all over the world know that, there's no question . . . they know the Yankees."

Granderson, who turns 29 on March 16, struggled some at the plate last season with the Tigers, hitting .249, including .183 against lefties, with a .327 on-base percentage and 141 strikeouts. But the lefthanded-hitting Granderson did hit a career-high 30 homers, a total most assume will increase given his swing and the Stadium's inviting seats in right.

Alex Rodriguez cited the "Kevin Long factor" in discussing why Granderson's numbers will go up, against lefties and righties.

"I think any player you bring into our lineup has an opportunity to improve by 10 or 15 percent on the numbers they've done . . . Kevin Long is going to be a really nice addition for him," A-Rod said of the Yankees' hitting coach.

Granderson said he has been in touch with Long already and will work with him soon.

As for the jersey number switch, Joe Girardi said his intent to wear 28 isn't set in stone.

"I want to talk to Curtis a little bit more," Girardi said. "I had a chance to talk to him about it and he said he liked the idea of what we did here and he didn't want to be the guy that changed it, but I want to talk to him a little bit more to make sure he's comfortable."