Curtis Granderson of the Yankees flies out in the second...

Curtis Granderson of the Yankees flies out in the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. (Sept. 25, 2013) Credit: Jim McIsaac

In what seemed like death by a thousand small cuts, manager Joe Girardi could not isolate a specific killer wound in the team's non-playoff season. But he did mention one symbolic injury in a never-full-health slog through 2013.

Of all those red flags of concern, eventually leading to the white flag of surrender, veteran outfielder Curtis Granderson's second broken bone in a span of three months stood out.

"When people talk about it from an emotional standpoint," Girardi said, "it was how bad everyone felt for Curtis when his hand was broken a second time. You could just see the difficulty he was having, and I think we all felt it for him.

"What he meant to this team and what kind of person he is, I think it was hard for all of us."

At one point or another, the Yankees sent all but one (Robinson Cano) of their preseason position starters, and nine pitchers, to the disabled list -- 20 men in all. They wound up putting a franchise-record 56 players in action.

But Girardi especially remembered May 24, when Tampa Bay's Cesar Ramos' pitch fractured Granderson's left pinkie. Granderson was playing only his eighth game after missing the season's first 38 while rehabilitating a broken right forearm, suffered in his first spring training plate appearance.

Was that a sign to the Yankees that the top would fall out, that their most productive hitters would miss great chunks of the season?

"No," Granderson said Wednesday night. "Because, at that moment, I don't remember where we were in the standings, but I think we were still in the thick of things. We were surprising a lot of people and we were starting to get some pieces back.

"If, all of a sudden, everything collapsed and we lost every game, I might say something different."

It is a fact that, when Granderson went down a second time, the Yankees were 29-18, in first place, a game ahead of the Boston Red Sox. And it wasn't until after the All-Star break that their record began to corrode.

But Granderson's absence -- he didn't return a second time until Aug. 2 -- hardly was trivial. He had hit 84 home runs the two previous seasons, had driven in 255 runs. After averaging 159 games his previous seven seasons, he was playing only his 57th game of 2013 last night. He went 1-for-4 and has a .239 average, seven homers and 14 RBIs.

"It's not the first time I've had injuries in my career," Granderson said. "I'd love to say it will be the last, but baseball being baseball, I'm sure there'll be some more little setbacks.

"There's always a worse situation. My hands didn't fall off. I've still got 'em. I healed up and it was just a matter of time until I got a chance to come back to the team."

At 32, Granderson is about to test the free-agent market. The Yankees could be reminded again how much he can be missed.

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