After the Yankees made a roster move to add a pitcher for yesterday's second doubleheader game, speculation started almost immediately about what it meant. Brett Marshall was added as extra bullpen insurance, insurance that wasn't needed, but Brennan Boesch getting sent down to clear a spot was the real story because it could mean only one thing. Curtis Granderson was ready to come back.
Joe hinted at it in his postgame presser, Donnie Collins added fuel to the fire with his report, and Granderson himself all but confirmed it last night on Twitter. He's on his way to New York to meet up with the team today, and with Corban Joseph having to go back down to Triple-A immediately after yesterday's game the expectation is that C-Grand will be activated off the DL to fill that roster spot and will be in the starting lineup for tonight's game.
If that's the plan tonight, then it couldn't be happening at a better time. The Yanks have just completed a successful but taxing road trip, their bench is painfully short, and the lineup as a whole is starting to show a little bit of that "all or nothing"-ness that was expected before the season. The return of C-Grand to the lineup and the locker room should serve as the little shot in the arm this group probably needs right now to keep their momentum going and as the first reminder to everybody that the cavalry is still coming.
So where will Curtis hit? The most logical choice would be second. The Yankees have been hurt by not having a hitter other than Robinson Cano who can produce from that spot and C-Grand has plenty of experience there on this team. His presence there makes the top of the lineup much more dangerous, and the presence of Cano behind him should ensure that Curtis sees plenty of pitches to hit as he tries to get his timing back. If Joe decides he doesn't want to stack lefties at the top, Curtis would fit in nicely lengthening the lineup either before, between, or after Wells and Hafner. Either way, the Yankees get a big boost in run-producing spots in the lineup.
In the field, all signs point to Curtis playing in one of the corners, even though that, like his return, has yet to be confirmed. He played the bulk of his time in right and left during his Triple-A rehab assignment and did so without issue. Joe hinted at this being the NEW new plan for C-Grand last week, and it goes without saying that it would be the right plan and the right decision. The best choice for Curtis would probably be right field, where there is less ground to cover and fewer opportunities to get beat taking bad angles to balls in the gap. Vernon Wells has looked very good in left, but with he, Brett Gardner, Ichiro, and now Granderson all having the ability to play multiple outfield spots there shouldn't be any problems figuring something out.
As far as production goes, it's important to remember that Granderson hasn't seen Major League pitching since last October. He hit .400/.429/.550 in his rehab assignment, but most of those hits were singles and he did strike out in 4 of his 20 plate appearances. Curtis is still likely at the point where he needs to get at-bats to get his timing back and that's going to take some time as he re-acclimates himself with Major League-caliber pitching. As a guy who's had his problems with strikeouts in recent years, don't be surprised to see Curtis swinging and missing a lot in these first few games. Personally, I thought the Yankees would give him more rehab time just to log ABs, but if he's physically ready to play I understand the decision. A "still working his way back" C-Grand is still an upgrade to this lineup and it makes sense to get him back up and get him his ABs here.
Curtis is just the first of hopefully many more returns to come this season, and he's a welcome one for a team that needed a boost to its bench. It will be interesting to see how Joe splits the playing time between this crew now, with both Wells and Ichiro swinging the bat well at the moment, but that's a much better problem to have than figuring out which below-replacement level hitter is going to hit 2nd or 6th. Welcome back, Curtis. It'll be damn good to see you back out there.