May 2011

Colon provides relief for Yanks’ pen

The national holiday of Memorial Day turned out to be a full day off for the Yankees’ bullpen as well Monday. The relievers have Bartolo Colon to thank for that with an old-fashioned complete game shutout, the ninth of his career but the first in five seasons, in a 5-0 dusting of the Athletics.

Except for the date on his birth certificate, there doesn’t appear anything old about Colon, who turned 38 last week but has turned back the clock for the Yankees this year. Still wounded by a no-decision May 18 at Baltimore when he came out of the game after eight scoreless innings of three-hit, seven-strikeout ball only to watch the game go 15 innings before the Yankees finally pulled it out, Colon took care of business for himself Monday.

His pitch count was still a manageable 96 entering the ninth inning, and Colon remained on the mound after he gave up a leadoff double. The runner got to third base but no farther as the A’s for a second time in the game wasted a leadoff double.

The other occasion was back in the second, one inning after the Yankees had staked Colon to a 3-0 lead. The veteran righthander, who pitched a game reminiscent of his 2005 American League Cy Young Award season, set the tone of the game in that inning by keeping the runner at second by getting a foul pop, a strikeout and an infield out.

That began a stretch of 12 consecutive outs that Kevin Kouzmanoff ended with a leadoff single in the sixth. Colon ran off six more outs in a row before yielding another leadoff hit, an infield single by Kurt Suzuki in the eighth. Mark Ellis followed with a grounder up the middle that Colon wisely let go past him to shortstop Derek Jeter, who fielded the ball, stepped on second and threw to first to finish off a double play.

Except for some warm-up throws by Joba Chamberlain in the ninth, the bullpen was quiet. After being forced to use his relief corps for 7 2/3 innings in Saturday night’s 12-inning loss at Seattle, Yankees manager Joe Girardi enjoyed watching Colon and CC Sabathia combine to pitch 17 of the next 18 innings. Only Lance Pendleton’s mop-up job for CC Sunday counted as a work day for the bullpen.

The victory was welcomed by Colon, who had not had a winning decision in his previous five starts and was 0-2 with a 4.60 ERA during that stretch. Colon’s first victory since April 27 got his season record even at 3-3 to go with a spiffy 3.26 ERA.

In what has been a habit for the Yankees on this West Coast trip, they struck early against the starting pitcher, in this case Trevor Cahill, who got off to a 6-0 start this year but is now winless in his past four starts despite a decent 3.51 ERA during that stretch. With an offense ranked 12th among the 14 AL teams, Oakland leaves little margin for error to its pitchers.

On the 16th anniversary of his first major-league hit, Jeter opened the game with a knock and scored one out later on Mark Teixeira’s two-run home run. That made it 16 jacks for Tex, who tied Curtis Granderson for the club lead and passed the center fielder in RBI, 38-37. Teixeira is on a homer binge lately with four in his past five games and seven in his past 11. Tex hit 10 homers in May. He didn’t get to 16 home runs last year until July 9.

Colon hadn’t stepped on the rubber yet, so who knew that would be all the runs the Yankees would need. Robinson Cano mae it 3-0 with a double to score Alex Rodriguez, who had walked. Jeter and Francisco Cervelli, who caught while Russell Martin nursed a sore left foot, supplied pad-on runs with late-inning sacrifice flies.

Cervelli sure didn’t act like a catcher on the bases. He had two steals, as did Brett Gardner. The duo’s running in the seventh after drawing walks helped the Yankees to a run without a hit. The rest was all Colon, who made this Memorial Day memorable.

I’ll be out of town the next few days to attend the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, an annual event at the National Baseball Hall of Fame where academics and other baseball aficionados gather to discuss seriously through individual presentations and panel groups the connection between the game and the American experience. I am honored to give the keynote address. I only hope my delivery is as effective as that of Bartolo Colon.

Yanks turn to CC, who does them a good turn

Did the Yankees ever need what they got from CC Sabathia Sunday? That is rhetorical question, of course. After two one-run losses, the second coming in a 12-inning game, the Yankees needed what the ace of a staff is paid the big money to do – to stop losing streaks and instill confidence.

Sabathia did all that and more as the Yankees salvaged the finale of the series and avoided being swept by a team with the weakest offense in the American League with a convincing 7-1 victory. Seattle proved resilient in the first two games by coming back from deficits each time and even winning Saturday night against the great Mariano Rivera, but the hole the Mariners got into this time was too deep against CC.

The Yankees had more hits with runners in scoring position (3-for-6) in the five-run third inning than they did in the first two games combined (2-for-16). That gave Sabathia a 6-0 bulge, and no lead ever appeared safer as he punished the Mariners for eight innings allowing only one run on a home run by Justin Smoak in the sixth.

The Mariners should be familiar with all this. Sabathia has pretty much had his way against the Mariners, particularly at Seattle. He improved his career record there to 8-1 with a 2.09 ERA and 10-4 with a 2.49 ERA against them overall.

The Yankees still had trouble generating an offense against Seattle’s improved bullpen, but it did not matter all that much Sunday. Their only run in 15 innings against the Mariners’ pen came in the fourth inning Sunday on a double by Curtis Granderson and a single by Mark Teixeira that swelled the Yankees’ lead to 7-0. These were the same two guys who became the first teammates to hit 15 or more home runs through the first 50 games since Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle 50 years ago. Granderson has 16 and Teixeira 15.

A home run by Nick Swisher in the second got the Yankees started, but the fifth-inning rally was marked by good situational hitting that the team has lacked as it has come to rely on long balls. A huge blow was a bases-clearing double by Andruw Jones, whose appearance in the lineup will be more on a regular basis. Jones subsequently scored on the first major-league triple from Eduardo Nunez, whose name will be showing up regularly as well against left-handed pitching.

The Yankees’ batting order will have a different look depending on the starting pitcher, which was evident Sunday as they faced a left-handed starter in the Mariners’ Jason Vargas, who they disposed of after three innings.

The continuing struggles of the switch-hitting Swisher and Jorge Posada have forced manager Joe Girardi’s hand. The duo is no longer guaranteed to be in the lineup. Posada, still hitless in 26 at-bats from the right side, has been benched against lefthanders as Girardi has various options at designated hitter, either by using Jones in that spot or what the manager did Sunday by playing Jones in the outfield and using Nunez at shortstop to provide Derek Jeter a half-day off as the DH. Girardi can also use Nunez at third base and give Alex Rodriguez a turn at DH.

Swisher’s home run was his first in 61 at-bats since May 7 and his first from the right side all year. He is batting .298 with seven RBI in 47 at-bats as a right-handed hitter but .174 with two home runs and 13 RBI in 115 at-bats as a left-handed hitter. If Swish doesn’t turn it around, there is a chance left-handed hitting Chris Dickerson could get some at-bats against righthanders. At this time a year ago, Swisher was batting .317 with nine home runs. He is hitting .210 with three home runs this year.

Girardi has made a bold move by benching Posada against lefties. He may do something similar with Swisher against righties.

‘Sweet 16′ anniversary for the Captain

Happy anniversary, Derek Jeter! The captain broke into the major leagues 16 years ago Sunday in the same city where the Yankees were – Seattle – but a different venue – the Kingdome, a far cry from the beauteous Safeco Field.

Jeter was called up from Triple A Columbus to fill in at shortstop while regular Tony Fernandez was on the disabled list. Not wanting to put too much pressure on the former first-round draft choice who was still a month away from his 21st birthday, then manager Buck Showalter batted Jeter ninth in the order.

DJ went hitless in five at-bats and handled both his chances in the field without incident in an 8-7, 12-inning loss. He got his first major-league hit the next night, a single in the fifth inning off Mariners righthander Tim Belcher.

Jeter played in 13 games and batted .234 with three doubles, one triple and seven RBI in 47 at-bats and committed two errors before returning to Triple A. He was a September call-up and got one more hit, a double, to finish with a .250 major-league average that season.

Jeter returned to Seattle when the Yankees made their first post-season appearance in 14 years in the first American League Division Series. He was not on the roster but was part of the traveling unit and got his first look at the post-season, a portion of the big-league season with which he has become especially familiar since his 1996 AL Rookie of the Year season in 1996.

Along the way, Jeter ended up setting franchise records in hits, stolen bases and at-bats and is on the verge of becoming the first player to get 3,000 hits while wearing a Yankees uniform. Before the year is out, he is likely to replace Mickey Mantle as the club leader in games played. The kid from Kalamazoo has come a long way since May 29, 1995.

Yanks falter again against Mariners’ pen

How weird is this? The Yankees scored seven earned runs with nine hits, including three home runs, and 10 walks in 12 combined innings off the Mariners’ devastating 1-2 punch of Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez.

Sounds good enough to win a couple of games in Seattle, right? Wrong. Here’s the weird part. While they prevented Pineda and Hernandez from adding to their victory totals, the Yankees have been shut out in nine innings against the Mariners’ bullpen.

Five of those innings were Saturday night, which was really Sunday morning by the time the game ended in Eastern Daylight time with Seattle striking against Mariano Rivera for a 5-4, 12-inning victory in a game that took 4 hours, 18 minutes to complete.

The Yankees’ pen was having a strong night as well until Rivera got into the game. Talk about weird. How often is it that Mo is the least effective reliever for the Yankees? Holding this loss against Rivera isn’t entirely fair considering the Yankees’ bats were able to score one somewhat tainted run after the third inning.

The Yankees are 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position in this series, 3-for-26 over their past three games and are batting .243 in such situations for the season. Again, the long ball sustained the Yankees, who scored three of their runs on homers by Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira. A triple by Curtis Granderson on a ball that probably should have been caught by Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki accounted for the Yankees’ other run.

After that, they were stymied by Seattle relievers for the second straight night. The Yankees are hitting .161 with no extra-base hits in 31 at-bats against the Mariners’ pen.

Already the Yankees’ franchise leader in hits, Derek Jeter took over the top spot in stolen bases as well with career No. 327 in the third inning. He made light the other day of tying the previous mark of Rickey Henderson, noting that it took him 18 seasons to reach a mark Henderson set in less than five seasons with the Yankees.

Felix no king this time against Yanks

The Yankees ran into a little déjà vu Saturday night in that they scored three runs early against a tough, young pitcher but failed to maintain the lead. Giving a second chance to a pitcher of Felix Hernandez’s quality is never the way to go. Twice Yankees starter Ivan Nova gave up leads that his teammates provided him.

The Yankees scored only one run in 26 innings a year ago against Hernandez, who won the American League Cy Young Award despite a 13-12 record but with a truckload of remarkable statistics. The Yanks matched their 2010 output against King Felix by the second inning on the 10th home run of the season by Robinson Cano.

One thing we know about the Mariners is that they hit the ball on the ground. The AL’s weakest offense scored all of its runs in Friday night’s 4-3 victory on infield outs. The Mariners made it five runs in a row in the bottom of the second scoring the tying run on a fielder’s choice. In fact, the first nine out Seattle made Saturday night were on infield grounders.

That should have been a good sign for Nova, who was given a 3-1 lead when Mark Teixeira connected for his 15th home run, a two-run shot, in the third. It was the sixth homer in the past nine games for Tex, who is heating up again.

An infield single by Franklin Gutierrez leading off the fourth on a play that had originally been scored an error by shortstop Derek Jeter was one of the last grounders Nova got as the Mariners began to elevate the ball. Doubles by Adam Kennedy and Miguel Olivo tied the score for Seattle, which went ahead on a one-out single by Brendan Ryan as Nova failed to last the inning.

Given new life, Hernandez settled in with three scoreless innings. Unlike Friday night, the Yankees did not stop when the score was 4-3. They got back into the game in the seventh on the unlikeliest of situations at Safeco Field, a misplayed fly ball by right fielder Ichiro Suzuki.

Hernandez walked Jeter with two out and paid for it when Curtis Granderson followed with a triple off the right field wall. TV replays indicated that Ichiro may have gotten a poor read on Grandy’s drive or perhaps the wind was a factor, but for whatever reason the Gold Glove winner who normally comes down with the ball whenever he jumps for one couldn’t get leather on it.

Good thing, too, because it allowed the Yankees to tie the score. They couldn’t push Granderson across but took consolation in sticking Hernandez with a no-decision. That the Yankees stayed close enough to draw even was due in part to 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief by Hector Noesi, who has really been a nice addition to the bullpen and how has a 0.96 ERA in 9 1/3 innings.

CC will get vacation time at home

When the Yankees travel from Oakland to Anaheim after Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Athletics, CC Sabathia will stay behind in the Bay Area and spend time in his hometown of Vallejo, Calif. Thursday is an open date for the Yankees, so CC will have the rare opportunity to visit with old friends and relatives during the baseball season.

Sabathia won’t be removed from baseball, however. He will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at 7:05 p.m., PDT, Wednesday as part of the North Vallejo Little League Spring Classic between Majors Division teams called the Yankees and the Cardinals at Thurmon Field, a rebuilt facility which Sabathia underwrote through his PitCCh in Foundation.

“This game represents the achievement of another major milestone in the 43-year history of North Vallejo Little League and our PitCCh In Foundation,” Sabathia said. “I certainly look forward to it and will enjoy the change of pace for me to be able to take in a night game in my home town in the middle of the Major League Baseball season and not be in uniform.”

More than 350 youngsters enjoyed this year’s All Star Baseball Clinic presented by the PitCCh in Foundation last January and a record number of players signed up for the Little League. Efforts to revitalize the field began in late January 2010 with the opening of a new field that includes new irrigation, infield dirt, bases, pitching rubber, home plate, dugouts, a black vinyl coated chain link fence and 37,000 square feet of new sod. Adjoining the field is also a new snack bar where CC can enjoy refreshments while taking in the game.

Knocking phenom out early isn’t enough for Yanks

The Yankees went against the grain Friday night at Seattle in not falling under the spell of a pitcher that they had not faced before. In recent years, the Yankees’ unfamiliarity with a pitcher had been their Achilles heel. That was not the case this time, although they did not exactly batter Michael Pineda about.

In fact, Pineda was his own worst enemy in this start, his shortest of the season, in which he left after five innings. The Yankees got to the 6-foot-7 righthander from the Dominican Republic right away on Mark Teixeira’s 14th home run with two out in the first inning that ended a string of 14 scoreless innings by Pineda.

The Yankees had only two other hits off Pineda, who walked five batters, a season high, and threw a very costly wild pitch. Pineda was also aided by his center fielder, Franklin Gutierrez, who robbed Nick Swisher of a home run in the fourth inning with a wall-climbing catch after a long run.

Pineda’s damaging wild pitch came in the fifth. He pitched himself into a fix after two were out by walking Curtis Granderson and giving up a single to right by Teixeira that sent Granderson to third base.

Pineda had been successful against Alex Rodriguez pounding him with mid-90-mph fastballs but spun a slider that A-Rod swung at and missed. Catcher Miguel Olivo missed it, too, allowing Granderson to score and Teixeira to take second. It proved additionally beneficial to the Yankees when Rodriguez singled to center to increase their lead to 3-0.

By pushing Pineda’s pitch count to 96, the Yankees were successful in prompting the rookie’s departure after the fifth. Unfortunately for the Yankees, they were not successful in holding that lead.

The Mariners went ahead by scoring two runs apiece in the fifth and sixth without an RBI hit in either inning. A.J. Burnett also came out after five innings with five walks but was in place for his first winning decision on the road since July 28 last year at Cleveland when he left the game with the score 3-2.

Seattle had runners on second and third after a single by Brendan Ryan and a double by Ichiro Suzuki. They both scored on infield outs. Something similar happened in the sixth after Adam Kennedy singled off Boone Logan and Olivo singled off Luis Ayala, who then walked Carlos Peguero to load the bases with none out. One run scored on a fielder’s choice by Ryan and the second on a groundout by Ichiro. The Mariners pulled in front despite going hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position.

The Yankees weren’t much better in clutch situations. A-Rod’s single was their only hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position. After driving Pineda from the game prematurely, the Yankees were held to two hits over four innings by three Seattle relievers and lost a runner at second base in the eighth inning when pinch runner Eduardo Nunez was picked off. Ouch!

The no-decision kept Burnett winless on the road in his past 10 regular-season starts away from Yankee Stadium. Over that stretch, A.J. is 0-5 with a 5.64 ERA. He is 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA in four starts on the road this season.

This was a tough loss for the Yankees, who coughed up a three-run lead on the eve of having to face 2010 American League Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez, who was 3-0 with a 0.50 ERA against them last year. King Felix’s dominance against the Yankees was a prime factor in his winning the Cy Young Award despite a season record of 13-12. The Yanks wouldn’t mind making him pay for taking an honor that might have gone instead to CC Sabathia.

Robertson sees tornado devastation up close

All David Robertson knew about the tornado that tore through his home town of Tuscaloosa, Ala., was what he heard over the telephone from family members. He was in contact with his parents, brother and grandmother, who got through the storm safely and without major property damage.

Other people weren’t as fortunate, which Robertson saw first-hand when he and his wife, Erin, spent Thursday’s off day on a trip home before the Yankees opened a holiday weekend series Friday night at Seattle. Entire blocks with which David was familiar were scattered with debris, and many families were still forced to live in shelters while cleanup crews worked to clear areas.

“You could see the path it took,” Robertson told reporters at Safeco Field. “One side of a street would be reduced to rubble, and the other side was not even touched. Luckily, all my family and friends live on the same side of town and were very fortunate when it hit. None of them got hurt or killed. It’s really bad down there. You can’t really imagine it until you see it. I knew there were fatalities and stuff and it was terrible, but I wasn’t prepared for how far it went. Seeing my hometown destroyed, it was difficult. It was disturbing.”

The relief pitcher and his wife have established the David and Erin Robertson to raise funds to donate to relief efforts in Tuscaloosa. He will donate $100 for every strikeout he records during the season to the fund. The Robertsons are creating a web site that is under construction – http://www.highsocksforhope.com – and are encouraging fans to donate what they can to help those in dire need in the city where the University of Alabama is located. There is an address on the site already where money may be pledged.

“I wish I could go down there and use my hands and help people to rebuild, but I’m not able to,” Robertson said. “So I’m going to do everything I can to raise money to get supplies and others things to the people down there.”

Mo gets to 1,000

A Yankee Stadium crowd of 43,201 on a sun-splashed afternoon not only got to see the Yankees win a game against the Blue Jays but also to watch Mariano Rivera step into another level of baseball history. In what was not a save situation but an opportunity to get in some work for the first time in a week, Rivera made the 1,000th appearance of his major-league career and pitched a shutout ninth inning.

Rivera became the 15th pitcher to reach four figures in games – all are pitchers, primarily relievers – but the first to do so with just one team, an extraordinary accomplishment in the free agency era of player movement. His reaction to the milestone was similar to so many of his other reactions – tinged with humility.

“It’s a blessing,” he said. “I mean, when I first started, something like this never crossed my mind. I was just happy to be in the big leagues. This is special, especially to do it with one team, the Yankees, and be able to play with so many great players. They showed a lot of faith in me in the early days. I thank God for his help and the support of my wife and family.”

Mo was quick to point out that he lost the first game he ever pitched for the Yankees, a start May 23 at Anaheim when he gave up five runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings of a 10-0 loss. He also mentioned that he blew two saves in his first week as the team’s closer in 1997, the year after he had been an outstanding setup reliever for John Wetteland, whose pursuit of free agency opened the door for Rivera to begin a run as the greatest closer in baseball.

The Yankees’ catcher in those years was Joe Girardi, now the manager who brought Rivera into Wednesday’s game.

“I reflect on when I first came here in 1996 and caught him in spring training.” Girardi said. “I remember thinking, ‘Who is this kid?’ His stuff was excellent. He threw 97 [mph] and put the ball where he wanted it. He elevated. I was a National Leaguer. I had never heard of him, but I knew this kid was something special. Even before he became the closer, he was special. In those days, if you didn’t get to us by the sixth inning, the game was over.”

Rivera entered games in the seventh inning in 1996. A year later, he took over the ninth and has made that inning his ever since, to the point that when he does blow a save as he did last week at Baltimore it is headline news. Closing relievers are like housekeepers; nobody notices your work unless you don’t do it.

“I was surprised,” Rivera said about being named the Yankees’ closer in ’97. “We had just won the World Series. It was a lot of responsibility, but I took it as a challenge. You have to be proud of what you do.”

Of the other 14 1,000-game pitchers, four have connections with the Yankees, including the all-time leader, Jesse Orosco, who appeared in 1,252 games over four decades and 24 seasons. His best seasons were with the Mets in the 1980s, and Orosco was reunited with former manager Joe Torre with the Yankees in 2003, the lefthander’s final season in the majors.

Second to Orosco on the list is another lefthander, Mike Stanton, with 1,178 games. Stanton was an integral part of the Yanks’ bullpen from 1997 through 2002 and a portion of the 2005 season. Lee Smith, who held the saves record before Trevor Hoffman broke it, is tied with Jose Mesa for 10th place on the list with 1,022 games, eight of which were with the Yankees at the tail end of the 1993 season.

The most prominent former Yankees reliever on the list is Goose Gossage, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2008. Goose was the Yankees’ closer from 1978 through ’83 and came back to pitch for them briefly (11 games) in 1989. He ranks 14th with 1,002 games.

What those who pitched for the Yankees save Rivera have in common with nearly everyone else on the list is that they wore quite a few different uniforms. Orosco and Gossage pitched for nine teams apiece, Stanton and Smith eight each.

The least traveled 1,000-game pitchers prior to Rivera were John Franco, Kent Tekulve and Hoffman, each of whom who played for only three teams. Franco is third on the list with 1,119 games, Tekulve eighth with 1,050 and Hoffman ninth with 1,035.

The other pitchers to appear in more than 1,000 games with the number of their teams in parentheses were fourth-place Dennis Eckersley (5) with 1,071 games; fifth-place Hoyt Wilhelm (9) with 1,090; sixth-place Dan Plesac (6) with 1,064; seventh-place Mike Timlin (6) with 1,058; 10th-place Mesa (8) with 1,022, tied with Smith; 12th-place Roberto Hernandez (10) with 1,010 and 13th-place Mike Jackson (9) with 1,005.

Eckersley, Wilhelm and Gossage are the only Hall of Famers on the 1,000-game list. Wilhelm was elected in 1985 and Eckersley in 2004. Hoffman retired this year and won’t be eligible for the ballot until 2016. Rivera, of course, is still active – very much so.

No homers, but Grandy outpoints Bautista

The Yankees-Blue Jays series that ended Wednesday at Yankee Stadium offered a duel between the leading home run hitters in the American League. When Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista hit a long home run to left field in his first at-bat Monday night, he seemed to be throwing down a gauntlet to Curtis Granderson.

The Yankees center fielder picked it up and threw it right back at Bautista. Granderson did not add to his home run total of 16 – three behind Bautista – but he clearly had the better series of the two.

Granderson was on base 10 times and scored six runs in the three games as the Yankees ended the 4-2 homestand on a high note by taking two of three from the Blue Jays, which was more important than taking two of three from the Mets because Toronto is in the same division as the Yanks and play for the same prize, an AL East title or at the least a playoff berth.

When the series began, Granderson was all deferential to Bautista saying that he did not belong in the same sentence because he was not really a power hitter, certainly not one to match the guy who swatted 54 home runs in 2010.

“I’m always trying to drive the ball, but I never go up there looking for a home run” Granderson said. “Whenever I have done that, from high school to now, it has never been a successful thing for me.”

Since the middle of last August when he revamped his swing, Granderson has hit 30 home runs, more than any other player in the major leagues other than Bautista, who has 37 over that span. This week’s showdown was won by Bautista in terms of home runs only, one to zero, but in the other areas of the game, Granderson won hands down.

This is not to say that Bautista is a one-dimensional player. He not only leads the league in home runs but also runs, total bases, walks, slugging and on-base percentage and is batting .342. His home run was only one of two hits he had in 10 at-bats in the series. Bautista walked twice, was hit by a pitch and scored two runs.

Now look at Granderson’s series: 6-for-11 (.545) with three doubles, two RBI, six runs, three walks, one hit by pitch and one stolen base. He was in the middle of the come-from-behind victory Tuesday night, the most exciting game of the season, with four hits and banged out two more doubles in Wednesday’s 7-3 victory to raise his batting average to .280.

In the three games, Granderson pretty much fulfilled the scouting report he delivered on himself at the start of the series: “A little bit of everything, you know, gets hits, can drive the baseball, can potentially hit the ball out of the ballpark.”

Take notice that he put the home run hitting last. He has hit as many as 30 home runs in a season (2009) and last year, his first with the Yankees, Granderson hit 24. He is on a pace to hit 55 this year, but don’t talk to him about paces.

“I remember when I got traded here from Detroit, people were saying I might hit 40 home runs playing half a season at Yankee Stadium since I had 30 playing half a season at Comerica Park.” Granderson said. “I didn’t take that seriously. When I hit a home run at Fenway Park in my first game with the Yankees, a friend of mine said, ‘All right; you’re on pace for 162.’ People throw numbers out that I’ve never come close to.”

Just the same, Granderson keeps throwing out big numbers.

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