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Out of leftfield . . . Yanks to try Brett Gardner in center in switch with Curtis Granderson

Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson warms up for

Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson warms up for his first day of practice. (Feb. 18, 2013) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. - Curtis Granderson made it clear that he just wants to play. But he was just as clear about something else.

"I'd love to play center. That's where I've been playing," he said Thursday.

The Yankees have other ideas, though. During outfield drills Thursday, they took the first step toward flipping leftfielder Brett Gardner and Granderson, a centerfielder the vast majority of his career.

"We're going to toy with it and see if we like it," Joe Girardi said. "Grandy when he first came here said he was willing to move to left. If we're going to experiment, now's the time."

Granderson brought the topic to Girardi on Wednesday after being questioned by reporters about a possible position switch.

"I just wanted to know what was going on, just to see, because I obviously heard everything from you guys," said Granderson, who has played 1,109 games in his career in center and 22 in leftfield (none since 2007). "Either the story was created or there had to be some information, so I just wanted to make sure him and I were on the same page. And sure enough, it was discussed. And it's not anything final. It's something that we're just going to try and see how it goes."

But indications are that unless Granderson trips over himself in pursuit of 50 percent of the balls hit to him in left, it will be final. The view of more than a few in the organization -- and many opposing scouts share this opinion -- is that Gardner is the better defensive centerfielder and is better at tracking fly balls.

Gardner, like Granderson, said he prefers to play center.

"I feel comfortable out there," said Gardner, who played only 16 games last season because of an elbow injury that required surgery. "I feel more comfortable going out there than I would to leftfield. Probably always will, even I play leftfield for six or eight more years."

Girardi would not say he thinks Gardner is the superior defender. "I think it has a chance to help us a little bit but I'm not really sure," he said. "So I'm going to toy with it. I'm not saying this is what it's going to be Opening Day."

Gardner played 22 games in center and 17 in left in 2008, then played only center in 2009 (99 games). When Granderson joined the team before the 2010 season, Gardner switched to left, playing 123 games there and 44 in center. He played 149 games in left and 18 in center in 2011.

Although Gardner's transition to left was fairly seamless -- plenty of scouts thought he, not the Royals' Alex Gordon, should have won the AL Gold Glove in 2011 -- he didn't hesitate when asked if he still sees himself as a centerfielder.

"I always have, I always will," Gardner said. "But the last few years I've been playing left, and that's fine with me."

That was a sentiment expressed by both players Thursday, several times.

"At the same time, I want to play in general," Granderson said. "So no matter where it happens to be, that's where I want to be at . . . If I get benched, that's a different story. But I'm still playing, and that's what I want to do."

Neither Granderson nor Gardner will travel to Disney for Saturday's exhibition opener against the Braves, but Girardi hinted the "new" look to the outfield could be unveiled Sunday against the Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field.

And once he does send Granderson to left and Gardner to center in spring training, he said it will get a significant test run.

"I think I'll probably stick with it a while just to see," Girardi said.

Girardi has acknowledged that a player could be negatively impacted at the plate by a position change. Granderson, of course, has hit 84 homers the last two seasons. If that's a concern for Girardi, it doesn't seem to be shared by Granderson.

"I've switched all up and down in the lineup," he said. "You talk about switches and changes, I've done it before. I've done everything, so it's just another one of those changes, and change is always a good thing."

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