Yankees activate Curtis Granderson, and down Melky Mesa

As expected, the Yankees have activated Curtis Granderson off the 60-day DL in time for tonight’s game. He is in the lineup, batting fifth and playing left field. Melky Mesa was sent to Triple-A Scranton to clear a spot on the 25-man roster, and Thomas Neal was designated for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

Eagerly awaiting Curtis Granderson’s return

(Martin Griff/Times of Trenton)
(Martin Griff/Times of Trenton)

To date, this has been a lost season for Curtis Granderson. Two long-ish term fluke injuries have limited him to just eight (!) of the team’s first 107 games, and the Yankees have sorely missed his power production in the middle of the lineup. The injuries also came at a bad time for Curtis personally, since he’s due to become a free agent for the first time this winter. That’s unfortunate.

The good news is that Granderson’s time on the DL is about to come to an end. He wrapped up his six-game minor league rehab assignment yesterday, going 4-for-19 (.211) with four walks and five strikeouts with High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Granderson played left field in four of the six games — he was the DH in the other two, once because he had a stomach bug and couldn’t play the field as scheduled — and reported no problems with his left hand.

“Curtis has been a vital part of our offense,” said Derek Jeter to Wally Matthews. “He’s a guy that can change the game with one swing. We’re looking forward to him coming back, but just because Curtis is back doesn’t mean we can sit back and relax. Everybody has a job to do and everyone needs to do it.”

As a team, the Yankees have hit just 28 homers in 53 games since the calendar flipped to June, including a recent eight-game homer-less streak that was their longest since going ten straight in April 1984. That’s where Granderson, a flawed hitter who won’t hit for much average and will strike out a bunch, figures to give the team a big boost. They need someone who can put a run(s) on the board with one swing, and few hitters in the world can do that as well as Curtis. That his left hand was broken and not the right (front hand) bodes well for retaining that power after the injury.

There’s also this: the Yankees have become a very impatient team. They rank 19th in baseball with a 7.5% walk rate, their lowest since 1990 and their first time below 8.5% since 2001. Outside of Brett Gardner, who is seventh in baseball with an average of 4.24 pitches per plate appearance, not a single regular sees more than 3.75 pitches per plate appearance. That’s awful and leads to a lot of quick outs, as you may have noticed. In addition to hitting for power, one of Granderson’s strengths is drawing walks (11.0% in 2012, 10.1 % career) and seeing pitches (4.27 P/PA in 2012, 4.16 career). That will be a welcome addition to the offense.


Although the Yankees are lefty-heavy, it won’t be tough to squeeze Granderson’s bat back into the lineup. I assume Melky Mesa will be sent to Triple-A to clear a 25-man roster spot and either Luis Cruz or Zoilo Almonte will be transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot, but that’s the easy part. Granderson should play left field every day, pushing Alfonso Soriano into the DH role. Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells will have to duke it out for playing time in right. The regular lineup could look something like this:

  1. CF Gardner
  2. SS Jeter
  3. 2B Robinson Cano
  4. LF Granderson
  5. DH Soriano
  6. 1B Lyle Overbay
  7. RF Ichiro or Wells
  8. Third Base
  9. Catcher

That splits up the lefties a bit, rather than batting Soriano cleanup and having three straight lefty bats from the five through seven slots whenever Ichiro plays. It’s not perfect, but that suddenly looks like a competitive big league lineup. Four guys you can expect to be above-average, two you can expect to be about average, and three that range from below-average to awful. It’s not a classic Yankees lineup, but it’s far better than what they’ve trotted out there for most of the season.

So, this is it. The Yankees are at full strength now. With the exception of Alex Rodriguez, who is facing a Biogenesis-related suspension, all of the injured position players will be back as soon as Granderson is activated. Frankie Cervelli is heading to see Dr. Andrews and is unlikely to play again this year, and the trio of Cruz, Almonte, and Travis Hafner are largely inconsequential. This is it barring an August waiver trade. With Curtis back, the Yankees are as close to full strength as they’re going to get, and now is the time to make a run at that second wildcard spot.

Granderson reaches base three times in latest rehab game

In his latest minor league rehab game with Double-A Trenton this afternoon, Curtis Granderson went 1-for-3 with two walks and a strikeout. He singled to left on a jam shot and flew out to center. Granderson played the entire game at DH, and there’s a good chance he will join the Yankees when they open their series against the Padres in San Diego. That is not yet official, however.

Granderson triples, Phelps throws four innings in rehab game

In his latest minor league rehab game with Double-A Trenton, Curtis Granderson went 1-for-3 with a walk and a triple to right field. He popped out to third and flew out to center in his other two at-bats. Granderson played six innings in left field as well, though his bat is more of a concern at this point given the nature of his injury (hand). Mike Ashmore says Curtis will play with the Thunder again tomorrow, and rumor has it he could rejoin the team for the Padres series this weekend.

In the same game, David Phelps (forearm) allowed one run on three hits and two walks in four innings. He struck out six and got four ground ball outs compared to one in the air (popup). The other out came on a pickoff by the catcher. Phelps threw 50 of his 76 pitches for strikes (66%). I don’t know what the plan is now, but I assume he’ll make one more rehab start before joining the team unless the big league club suddenly needs a pitcher.

Granderson goes hitless in latest minor league rehab game

In his latest minor league rehab game with High-A Tampa, Curtis Granderson went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He flew out to center and grounded out to first in his other two at-bats while playing the entire game at DH. Nicholas Flammia says Granderson will work out in Tampa tomorrow and continue his rehab stint with Double-A Trenton on Tuesday. Before this afternoon’s game, Joe Girardi hinted Curtis could be return to the team for next weekend’s series against the Padres.

Granderson hitless, Nix doubles in latest minor league rehab games

In his second minor league rehab game with High-A Tampa, Curtis Granderson went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. He flew out to center and grounded out to second in his other two at-bats. Granderson played five innings in left field and had to field a few fly balls and scoop some base hits in front of him. Getting comfortable at the plate is more important than his defense given the nature of the injury. He’s expected to stay with Tampa through the weekend.

In the same game, Jayson Nix went 1-for-4 with a double to right field. He flew out to right, grounded out to short, and a lined out to short in his other three at-bats. He played seven innings at third base and booted a ground ball. Nix is working his way back from a hamstring problem and is much further along in his rehab than Granderson. Not sure what the plan is for him, but I suppose there’s a chance he’ll be ready in time to join the team before next week’s trip to the West Coast. Don’t quote me on that though. We’ll find out soon enough.

Granderson and Nix play in first rehab game with High-A Tampa

In his first minor league rehab game with High-A Tampa, Curtis Granderson went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout. He lined out to the second baseman as well. Granderson played five innings in left field and had to run down some fly balls, but no big deal. It’s a hand injury, so getting comfortable at the plate is the important thing. He is expected to remain with Tampa through the weekend.

In the same game, Jayson Nix went 0-for-2 with a walk and two fly outs (center and left). He played five innings at third base and didn’t have to make a single play. Nix and his bad hamstring did have to run the bases once, including taking second base on a wild pitch and scoring from second on an error. No idea what the plan is for him, but I assume Nix will be here a few days as well.