TODAY'S PAPER
49° Good Afternoon
49° Good Afternoon
SportsColumnists

Baumbach: Granderson makes some new friends

A fan snaps a cell phone photo of

A fan snaps a cell phone photo of himself with New York Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, right, who greeted fans as they entered Yankee Stadium before their baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays. (May 20, 2010) Credit: AP

A few dozen lucky fans chose the right time and turnstile to enter Yankee Stadium yesterday. Once they walked inside, Curtis Granderson was standing there offering to shake hands and pose for photographs.

The Yankees did this regularly with various players last season, but it's hard to imagine anybody embracing this job more than Granderson did yesterday.

Dressed in a Yankees hat, dark blue workout shirt and uniform pants, the Yankees' injured centerfielder repeatedly broke the ice by introducing himself to each person, fan after fan. He was so outgoing as he engaged in small talk that you almost expected him to walk with them to their seats.

Hearing him say "Hi, I'm Curtis Granderson'' dozens of times seemed fitting, in a way, considering just how far off the radar he's been since he suffered a groin injury May 1. So many of his teammates have come down with injuries since then that it's almost as if his absence has been, well, forgotten.

That's not typical for a player who falls under the category of "Yankees' top offseason acquisition,'' but Granderson also is far from your typical ballplayer. He has proven that with the way he views his time on the disabled list.

It would be perfectly normal if he were itching to get back, especially considering he was hitting just .225 (18-for-80) when he got hurt. The pressure of living up to perceived expectations here have gotten to bigger names in their first Yankees season.

But Granderson doesn't seem to be the least bit concerned about having his Yankees career put on hold one month in with a stay on the disabled list. Perhaps more importantly, it doesn't seem as though he will look to make up for missed time when he returns in a few weeks. He's accepted his situation and says he has moved on, and it's easy to believe him.

"Once you're on the disabled list, you can't really do anything about it," he said minutes before his meet-and-greet with fans. "There's no use beating yourself up over it, anyway."

That's a logical and reasonable approach to the DL, but not every player handles the forced downtime with such poise. These players made it to the highest athletic level in part because they are superbly competitive by nature. So playing the waiting game doesn't usually come easy.

That's why the upbeat persona Granderson has exuded this month has surprised people. "A lot of people when I come in here, they say, 'Man, you're really in good spirits,' " Granderson said. "But you know what? When the injury happened and I went to get the MRI, there was the potential of it being a lot worse."

Granderson has been taking batting practice on the field and extra swings in the cage and senses his return is close. General manager Brian Cashman said Thursday that the team has begun mapping out a minor-league rehab plan for Granderson, beginning with games at designated hitter to ease him in.

"We want to be careful. We won't rush this," Cashman said.

Getting Granderson to accept that won't be an issue. As his teammates have gone down with injuries seemingly by the day, people in the clubhouse have been half-jokingly asking Granderson how many innings he could give the team on a given night.

But he doesn't even play along. Answering "what if'' questions does no one any good, he said, and then he pointed to Marcus Thames' walk-off home run off Boston's Jonathan Papelbon Monday night as an example.

"If the roles were reversed and I was in there, who knows? Maybe I would have struck out," Granderson said.

Then he shook his head. "You can never look at it like that . . . The way I look at stuff is, I look at all the positives."

New York Sports