Curtis Granderson wasn’t supposed to be a center fielder or a middle-of-the-lineup batter anymore, but those continued to be his roles for Wednesday’s NL wild-card game against San Francisco.
After opening the season in right field and as the team’s default leadoff man, the former All-Star has thrived for the Mets down the stretch in returning to spots more attuned to the earlier part of his career.
“The best thing about Curtis is that he never lets anything bother him,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “You know what? I ask him to lead off, he leads off. You ask him to hit fourth, he hits fourth. You ask him to hit second, he hits second. There is never a discussion, never an argument. When I put him in centerfield, I knew he didn’t particularly care to play centerfield anymore. He had gotten comfortable in right field.
“But he understands for the betterment of the team he needs to play centerfield. I think he’s gone out and done very, very well. I think he’s handled it great… He’s what you got to have if you’re going to win.”
Yoenis Cespedes suffered a quad injury just before the All-Star break, and he was shifted from center field to left upon returning from a disabled-list stint in August. With former Gold Glove winner Juan Lagares (thumb) also sidelined until recently and right fielder Jay Bruce acquired at the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the 35-year-old Granderson ended up starting 32 games in center late in the year.
“I listen to my body, working with our training staff, getting stretched out, hot and cold tub, make sure I stay hydrated. All different things,” Granderson said. “And using Tom Goodwin who is our outfield coach to try to limit the amount of running I have to do out there. If we know guys tend to (hit) to one side of the field, we maybe position ourselves a little bit better so we don’t have to do too much.
Curtis Granderson has thrived for the Mets down the stretch.
(Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)
“Learning to play behind guys like (Wednesday’s starter) Noah (Syndergaard) and the rest of the pitching staff and what they’re trying to do out there is a little different than being over in the corner. So I try to do a combination of that…Just learn, trust, use my corner outfielders to try to blanket as much as we can and pinch when we need to, because we have other centerfielders out there, just not playing center at that moment. But working well with them helps make that job a little easier.”
Granderson also finished with a flourish after a terrible offensive start, particularly with runners in scoring position. Shifted to the middle of the lineup soon after Jose Reyes returned to the Mets, Granderson batted .302 with eight home runs and 21 RBI in September and October. He finishing the year at .237 with 30 homers – four more than last season — and 57 RBI.
“You’ve got to have guys that say, ‘hey, look, all I want to do is help the team.’ And Curtis Granderson is that guy,” Collins said. “He’s the prototypical pro that comes to the ballpark every day and does what he’s supposed to do to help you win.
“You give him a day off, and he doesn’t say ‘why am I off today?’ He says, ‘okay, I’ll be ready in the 7th inning if you need me.’ When you lead by example like that, there are a lot of guys who fall into line because he’s a star and it makes a big difference for us. He helps the manager immensely.”
Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News