Commentary

Curtis Granderson has come Long way

Center fielder's work with Yankees hitting coach has spurred recent red-hot hitting

Updated: September 4, 2010, 11:27 AM ET
By Ian Begley | Special to ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- When Curtis Granderson left the ballpark on Aug. 9, he was a broken man.

He knew he'd gotten plenty of good pitches to hit in a 2-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox that day, but he finished the game 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and five runners left on base, getting showered with boos in the Bronx.

Granderson sat for the next two games in Texas and worked with New York Yankees hitting instructor Kevin Long to correct mechanical flaws in his swing.

He's been a different hitter ever since.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Granderson
AP Photo/Bill KostrounCurtis Granderson is hitting .303 (23-for-76) with four doubles and seven homers since Aug. 12.

Granderson's adjustments were on full display Friday afternoon in the Bronx in the Yankees' 7-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. The Yankees center fielder went 2-for-3 with two doubles, three RBIs, two walks and a run scored to help lift a depleted Yankees lineup.

The Bombers took the field without Derek Jeter (day off), Nick Swisher (sore left knee) and Alex Rodriguez (calf) but the offense didn't miss a beat. The Bombers bats bludgeoned Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow and beat up Toronto's middle relief to the tune of seven runs and 11 hits.

"There's a lot of talent on this team and guys are stepping up," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Yankees have won seven straight and are a season-high 35 games over .500. They've also scored an eye-popping 36 runs in the first five games of a season-high 10-game homestand.

And Granderson has been in the middle of most of it. He went 2-for-4 with a run scored in the Yankees' 4-3 win over Oakland on Wednesday. On Thursday, Granderson entered the game in the first inning after Swisher exited with a sore left knee. He hit two towering home runs to power the Yanks in a 5-0 win.

"That's been the main goal," Granderson said. "It's been that way from April to now, just try to help this team out as best I can."

Granderson hasn't been close to meeting that goal most of the season. His average has hovered around the .240 mark and he hasn't been anywhere near the slugger that smacked 30 home runs for the Detroit Tigers in 2009.

But Granderson met with Long to talk hitting mechanics in Texas on Aug. 10 -- still reeling from his personal Boston Massacre the day before.

Long worked with Granderson on keeping his hands still, closing his stance and making sure he finished his swing with both hands on the bat. The changes have allowed Granderson to hit the ball squarely to all fields. Prior to the Texas Tweak with Long, Granderson says he wasn't hitting the ball to left field with any authority and was trying to pull everything.

"We were looking at what's the reason why we're struggling and how could we change it without being too drastic," Granderson said.

He sat out two games in Texas against left-handed starters and returned to the Yankees lineup on Aug. 12 at Kansas City. Since then, Granderson is hitting .303 (23-for-76) with four doubles and seven homers.

Need more evidence that Granderson is red hot? Two of his seven home runs have come off left-handed pitching, which had been a death sentence for Granderson during his struggles in the first four months of the season.

Granderson's poor performance from April to early August went largely unnoticed as the Yankees ripped off win after win. It wasn't until the team went through a rough stretch at the beginning of August, losing five of eight, that Granderson began to feel the heat, culminating in the day he was booed lustily at home during the two-strikeout game against Boston.

But if Granderson, whom the Yankees acquired from the Tigers in a three-team trade in part to replace Johnny Damon, can continue his hot hitting into October, any struggles he endured in April, May, June and July will be long forgotten.

"Curtis has really stepped it up lately, and just in time," Mark Teixeira said. "Just when we need him the most, he's not disappointing."

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.

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