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Girardi expects a more versatile outfield

Curtis Granderson, center, the newest New York Yankees

Curtis Granderson, center, the newest New York Yankees player, poses for a picture with manager Joe Girardi, left, and part-owner of the team Hal Steinbrenner at Yankee Stadium. (December 17, 2009) Photo Credit: AP

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. - "You never say never," Joe Girardi said last night, smiling, when asked about Johnny Damon's comments that he still might wind up a Yankee in 2010. But Girardi and the Yankees are planning life without Damon, and the immediate upshot of that is a more versatile outfield.

Curtis Granderson may have been an All-Star centerfielder with the Tigers, but for now, he's a movable piece with the Yankees.

"Curtis is the type of player who will do anything that you ask of him," Girardi said at Greentree Country Club, where he participated in the Bernie Williams eighth annual Hillside Food Outreach Neighbors Helping Neighbors benefit dinner and auction. "I've talked to our outfielders. We'll see what happens in spring training.

"We're not going to necessarily nail down one position and tell a guy, 'This is where you're going to be.' We might have to make some adjustments with the players that we have."

While Granderson is generally regarded as a good defensive centerfielder, he experienced some problems toward the end of the 2009 season. The Yankees think Brett Gardner can be an outstanding defensive centerfielder, and newcomer Randy Winn has considerable experience at all three defensive positions.

Girardi hasn't spoken with Damon since the Yankees agreed to terms with Winn on Wednesday, a transaction that effectively ended any chance of reconciliation between the Yankees and Damon.

In reality, Damon's time with the Yankees concluded six weeks ago when the Yankees signed Nick Johnson to be their designated hitter. That hasn't stopped the fan outcry, though, and Girardi can relate firsthand to that.

"We wanted Johnny back. We tried to get it done," Girardi said. "But the one thing that's so great about Yankee fans is, they're loyal. I remember coming in and trying to replace Mike Stanley [in 1996]. It's not easy. The fans love you here. When you leave, someone's going to hear about it."

Asked to compare his current Yankees club to the team that won the 2009 World Series, Girardi said: "We've gotten younger. We've added rotation depth. And our relievers have another year. Are we better? I don't know. But I like our club."

Girardi said Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Chad Gaudin, Alfredo Aceves and Sergio Mitre will compete for the fifth starter's job.

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