- Wallace Matthews, ESPN Staff Writer
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SARASOTA, Fla. -- Right now, the Grandy Man can't. Play, that is. And no one is quite sure when he'll be able to again.
New York Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson was a late scratch from Tuesday's game against the Orioles with what the team described as an oblique strain -- the same injury that recently sidelined Joba Chamberlain, Sergio Mitre and Greg Golson, who was unable to play for 15 days because of it.
That raises the possibility that Granderson will not be ready to go on Opening Day, or even that he may start the season on the disabled list. It's a development that could throw the Yankees' outfield situation, considered an area of stability, into at least temporary disarray.
General manager Brian Cashman expressed his concern as "low level," but acknowledged, "I can't tell you that he'll be fine. It's possible he will be fine. But I can't tell you that he'll be ready in time, either, because we just don't know what we're dealing with yet. It's just too early. Obliques can be tricky."
Both Cashman and manager Joe Girardi expressed optimism because Granderson, who told them he suffered the injury on his last batting practice swing, seemed unconcerned about it.
But while the Mitre and Chamberlain situations resolved themselves in less than a week, Golson said he was unable to pick up a bat for 10 days after straining an oblique on March 7.
"Once you can swing, it gets better pretty quick," Golson said.
The severity of Granderson's strain is unknown -- he left the ballpark without speaking to reporters and returned to Tampa to consult with team orthopedic surgeon Allen Miller -- and neither Girardi nor Cashman knew if he would have an MRI or any other diagnostic tests.
"I think you gotta wait for [Wednesday]," Girardi said. "It doesn't make a lot of sense to speculate now."
Girardi said Granderson did not tell the team about his injury until well after batting practice, having gone through some running and throwing drills first.
"He said those didn't bother him," Girardi said. "So that's at least encouraging. He said if this was the season, he would have played."
If the injury is significant, it would mean moving Brett Gardner back to center field and giving more playing time to Andruw Jones, who would likely become the regular left fielder until Granderson returns. It also would likely mean either Golson or Justin Maxwell would go north with the team as the reserve outfielder.
Jones, who singled in three at-bats to raise his spring average to .219 in the Yankees' 6-2 loss to the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium, said he spoke to Granderson after the injury.
"He said it's not that bad, maybe two or three days at the most," Jones said. "Hopefully he will be back for the start of the season, but whatever happens I will be ready to go out there."
With the Yankees scheduled to face several lefties, Girardi had been planning to start Jones in the outfield this week anyway. However, he had been planning to use him at the corners to spell Gardner and Nick Swisher. Now, he will need him to replace Granderson.
"All we can do is wait to see how he feels tomorrow to have a good handle on what it is," Girardi said. "And then, we decide what we do next."
The Yankees fell behind 5-1 after Mitre allowed four third-inning runs, three on a solo home run by Jake Fox, who now has eight for the spring, and a two-run shot by Luke Scott. Mitre also balked home a run. The Orioles added their last run on a home run by J.J. Hardy off Chamberlain, making his first appearance after an 11-day absence caused by his oblique injury. Chamberlain also struck out two batters and hit 95 mph on the gun. ... Mark Prior had another good outing, pitching a 1-2-3 fifth inning, including two strikeouts. ... Swisher, making his first start at DH, had two doubles. ... Melky Mesa was rushed into the lineup to replace Granderson and went 1-for-3. ... Rafael Soriano pitched 1 2/3 innings in a minor league game in Tampa and allowed one hit, a home run. ... Phil Hughes (0-0, 4.20) will make his fifth start of the spring Wednesday night against the Blue Jays and LHP Jo-Jo Reyes (1-1, 3.46) at The George. First pitch, 7:05 p.m., no TV or radio.
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.
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