Beyond 2013, Curtis Granderson's future uncertain

Curtis Granderson slides into third for a stolen

Curtis Granderson slides into third for a stolen base during a game against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. (Oct. 2, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

TAMPA, Fla.

Trying to talk to the Yankees at the team's minor-league complex, which is located on the other side of Dale Mabry Highway from Steinbrenner Field, can be like working the drive-thru at a fast-food joint.

Most of the conversation is done over an idling engine, through a rolled-down window. The only difference -- aside from no Whopper or fries -- is that it's a drive-thru where not everyone stops.

But Curtis Granderson chose to speak with reporters Monday in a more relaxed fashion. He walked out of the complex, asked for a good spot to stand and chatted for about 12 minutes, until there was nothing left to ask.

The questions surrounding Granderson, however, can't be answered in the span of one morning interview session, especially in February. The Yankees picked up his $15-million option for this season, but it very likely will be his last in pinstripes. Granderson flatly said there have been no discussions about an extension.

"It hasn't been brought up," he said.

No surprise there, and Granderson is smart enough to realize that he can't possibly fit into the Yankees' long-term plans, not if they are serious about getting below next year's $189-million luxury tax threshold and also working out a deal to keep Robinson Cano, as Hal Steinbrenner said last week.

The Yankees already have raised the possibility of moving Brett Gardner to centerfield and switching Granderson to leftfield, with Ichiro Suzuki playing rightfield. That alignment is sure to get a test run in spring training, and Granderson did not object to the idea when asked.

"It's been a while since I've played there, but I have done it," said Granderson, whose last appearance in left came in 2007, for two games and a total of five innings with the Tigers. "If they're open to it, I'm open to it, too. I feel like I can float around out there. Whatever we need, and whatever the best move happens to be, I got no problem doing it."

In the big picture, that's really not a huge deal. The Yankees will be more than fine with some combination of Granderson and Gardner patrolling the wide expanse of Yankee Stadium lawn in left-centerfield. With the departure of Nick Swisher and the uncertain future of Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees are counting on another 40-plus homers from Granderson, preferably with fewer than last season's career-high 195 strikeouts, if that's possible.

Granderson shrugged off the suggestion that his vision might have been to blame for his staggering K total, including an embarrassing playoff run in which he whiffed 16 times in 30 at-bats. If not for Rodriguez's spectacularly bad postseason -- and all of the breathless drama that involved -- Granderson would have been the one demonized.

Granderson said his eyes actually might be getting a little better since he first was fitted for contact lenses after the December 2009 trade to the Yankees. He's due for another exam in a few days, just to make sure the prescription is the same.

So what's changed for him since then? Granderson said he altered his offseason batting program based on advice from Ichiro, who extolled the benefits of starting earlier to squeeze as much practice in before spring training.

"It definitely didn't hurt to get a couple more swings in before I come down," Granderson said.

For Granderson, swinging isn't the problem. It's the connecting part. With a batting stroke that's a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium, he frequently does damage merely by making contact. As for the misses, he still insists it's not something he loses any sleep over.

"I've had people say 'you strike out too much,' " Granderson said. "And I start to think, well, what's a good number? Is there a good number? And there isn't."

Less than 195 probably is a good jumping-off point.

Maybe Granderson really isn't obsessing over the strikeouts, but he doesn't deny thinking about free agency -- something that apparently was on his mind as early as last season.

Granderson admitted to asking Swisher and CC Sabathia their feelings on the subject, even as he tries to push those thoughts out of his head with a long walk year ahead of him.

"I really don't know what to do about it," Granderson said.

So many questions. Just add that one to the list.

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