David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.
Before Monday night's game at Tradition Field, a handful of Mets watched the replay of the J.A. Happ fastball that fractured Curtis Granderson's right forearm.
"Yeah," David Wright said. "It got away from him."
With Granderson sidelined for 10 weeks, the Mets can sympathize with the plight of their crosstown neighbors. Despite Sandy Alderson's offseason stand-up act regarding his barren outfield, the Mets find themselves still trying to piece together three players capable of holding down those jobs.
Lucas Duda, penciled in to play left, told Terry Collins after three more strikeouts Sunday that he's not feeling quite up to speed after rehabbing a broken wrist this winter. Not hurt, mind you. Just behind.
Maybe it's nothing. And with five weeks left in spring training, Duda has time to get back in hitting shape. But the Mets are counting on him to supply the power they've expected since Jerry Manuel compared him to Magglio Ordoñez and Moises Alou back in 2010.
In 250 major-league games, Duda has 29 home runs. Last season, he batted .239 with a .389 slugging percentage and whiffed 120 times. He also was demoted to Triple-A Buffalo.
No wonder a Mets official didn't bite when asked about the injury to Granderson. Usually, the misfortunes of the Yankees pique some interest in the other camp. "That's their problem," the official said. "We have our own stuff to deal with."
Both teams have serious issues in the outfield, with no readily available solutions. The Yankees were victimized by tough luck and a bad break Sunday, but their lack of organizational depth at the higher levels is forcing them to scramble.
How hurting are they? Johnny Damon on Monday basically volunteered to be a six-week rental for his former team. When Granderson returns, Damon would leave.
"Losing a Curtis Granderson is a tough thing to swallow," Damon told ESPN Radio. "But the way I hit at Yankee Stadium and the rightfield porch . . . it worked when I played for them. If they want to see what I can do, then I'll definitely be interested."
The Yankees' response? Meh. "We will focus on what we have for now," general manager Brian Cashman said via email.
That's understandable. Damon batted .222 in 64 games last season before the Indians released him. Paying him meal money might not be worth the investment.
Soriano, 37, hit 32 homers last year but is due $36 million through 2014. He has said he'd consider a trade to the Yankees, but Cashman isn't desperate enough yet to take on that kind of financial commitment, even if the Cubs picked up a significant chunk. Same deal with Wells, who is owed $42 million through 2014.
If the Yankees truly want to get below $189 million for next season, and presumably stay competitive, neither seems like a reasonable fit. Better to evaluate in-house candidates Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz. If Granderson does make it back by mid-May, six weeks of the regular season is a relatively short stretch to fill.
The Mets, however, are dealing with a glaring deficiency that stretches from foul pole to foul pole. After paying off Jason Bay just to get him out of Flushing, they intend to use Marlon Byrd in right, Duda in left and a platoon of Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Collin Cowgill in center.
That's not a Plan B, by the way. It's the Mets' best configuration, and they're assuming Duda will shake off the early rust and become a serviceable leftfielder. Yet with his fairly brief resume, he's still very much a leap of faith for Alderson.
It's early. But when it comes to the outfield, both the Yankees and Mets are operating without much of a safety net.