Granderson takes center stage in Bronx
On a cold, blustery afternoon, the newly acquired center fielder stood near the loading dock at Yankee Stadium for 20 minutes, helping fans drop off canned green beans, Pringles potato chips and other items during the team's annual food drive.
"It's not something you have to do," Granderson said Thursday. "But when you've been given so much, why not give back? It's something you should do."
Lauded by commissioner Bud Selig, Jim Leyland and many others for his off-the-field contributions, Granderson hopes to equally deliver with his bat, gloves and spikes. He's well versed in who previously roamed center field for the Yankees -- Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Bernie Williams, among others -- and who packs the ballpark.
"Fans that probably know more about you than you do," he said.
The Yankees got Granderson last week from Detroit in a three-team trade that included Arizona. He was a first-time All-Star last summer, and hit 30 home runs and stole 20 bases.
Like a lot of Yankees newcomers, Granderson instantly found himself caught in a numbers game. He wore No. 28 with the Tigers, but manager Joe Girardi intends to bump up one digit and take it next season -- after the Yankees won their 27th World Series championship, Girardi wants to have a new target.
Granderson instead will wear No. 14, the number his father used to wear in a men's softball league.
"I'm not superstitious," Granderson said. Besides, he said with a smile, if all goes well, the Yankees will win their 28th title next year, Girardi will then move up to No. 29 and Granderson can reclaim his old number.
"I want to talk to Curtis a little more" to make sure he's comfortable with the switch, Girardi said.
The Yankees are looking at more changes, too.
"I can't believe we're done yet," managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said, adding that "maybe another bat" would be nice. He didn't mention anyone by name, but free agent Nick Johnson is a distinct possibility.
Free agent Johnny Damon remains in the mix. General manager Brian Cashman praised him as a "perfect" second-place hitter for the Yankees and Girardi echoed that sentiment, saying Damon was an excellent fit for the stadium and the big stage.
"Right now, there's a difference of opinion as to what the pay is, quite frankly," Steinbrenner said.
The Yankees insist they want to cut their $200 million-plus payroll. New York's payroll for next season is at $183.9 million for 14 signed players, including two not expected to be on the opening-day roster, pitcher Andrew Brackman and infielder Juan Miranda.
Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia joined Granderson in the Legends Suite club to formally welcome him. Then all three players headed out, beyond the holiday tree placed on the pitcher's mound, toward the loading dock.
Fans received vouchers for two tickets for their food donations, and many seemed startled to see the three Yankees stars standing behind the counter.
"We have an opportunity to make a difference," Granderson said.
NotesThe dates and times of the Yankees' opening series at Fenway Park have been set. New York and Boston will start the season on Sunday, April 4 at 8 p.m., followed by games Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:10 p.m.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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