ARLINGTON, Texas -- Right now, the New York Yankees' center fielder, the Yankees' manager and the Yankees' hitting coach are in agreement on one key issue:
The Grandy Man can't. Hit, that is. At least, not the way he's been hitting for the first six-and-a-half seasons of his major league career.
Curtis Granderson, acquired by the Yankees before the season as a permanent solution to the void in center field created when Bernie Williams departed, was benched for Wednesday night's game against the Texas Rangers -- the second straight night manager Joe Girardi has sat him down despite his good lifetime numbers (.300 batting average, 12-for-40) vs. Rangers starter Cliff Lee.
And the reason is not only because Granderson has been struggling at the plate all season long, but because this week, he, Girardi and batting guru Kevin Long decided it was about time they did something about it.
"[Granderson] came to me and said, 'I want to try something different. What do you suggest?'" Long said.
What the hitting coach came up with was what he termed "a total reformation of the swing that hopefully will work against lefties and righties, and hopefully will get him on a good little streak here."
Simply put, Long is trying to shorten Granderson's swing by eliminating extraneous movement, re-training him to keep his hands back, and getting him to adopt more of a rotational approach to his hitting than the weight-shift method he has used throughout his career.
"Basically, we're trying to change habits that have been in there for a long, long time," Long said. "I would rather have the offseason, but every once in a while you're going to have a teaching moment when someone says, 'I'm ready.' And this is one of those times."
Long likened what he is doing with Granderson to what he did for Nick Swisher around the time of last year's postseason. "Swish needed to change about 10 things," he said. "This wasn't quite so many."
Long said he and Granderson worked intensively before Tuesday night's game, and planned to work both before and after Wednesday night's game, as well as before Thursday night's game in Kansas City.
"It takes time to do something like this, but we'll have four or five sessions in and then we'll give it a try [Thursday]," Long said. "It's a stretch, but we might be able to get something going here. Hey, he hasn't caught fire yet this year, has he?"
The answer is self-evident. A career .269 hitter who belted 30 home runs last year for the Detroit Tigers, Granderson has struggled throughout this season. His average is a paltry .246, he has just 10 home runs despite playing in a more homer-friendly home park, and he has driven in just 33 runs -- including just four off left-handed pitchers, a career-long bugaboo.
Against lefties this season, Granderson has been true to form, batting .206 (his career average vs. lefties is .209). But against righties, Granderson is hitting 33 points below his career average of .289.
When the Yankees acquired Granderson in a three-way deal that cost them center-field prospect Austin Jackson, they inherited the rest of Granderson's five-year contract, which will pay him $18.25 million for 2011 and 2012 combined. So it is certainly in the Yankees' best interests to get him straightened out for the long haul, even if it means losing him for a few games this August.
With lefty C.J. Wilson starting for Texas on Tuesday, Granderson sat in favor of Brett Gardner. But Girardi hinted Tuesday that Granderson would start Wednesday since his career numbers against Lee were so healthy.
But Wednesday afternoon, Girardi opted again for Gardner, whose career batting average vs. Lee is .400 but with a much smaller sample size (2-for-5). That decision was apparently reached on the suggestion of his hitting coach. "I asked [Girardi] that if at all possible we could have one more day it would help tremendously," Long said. "What we've been doing hasn't been working so far, so what do we have to lose? Like [Granderson] said, how much worse can it get?"