Yankees officially align outfield

Yankees officially align outfield

TAMPA, Fla. -- There may have been no "wrong decision" to make, as Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, but he has finally selected how to align his outfield on Opening Night.

Completing moves that had been expected for some time, Girardi officially announced on Thursday that Curtis Granderson will play center field and Brett Gardner will start in left when the Yankees open the season against the Red Sox on Sunday at 8:05 p.m. ET.

"They both did a very nice job in both spots," Girardi said. "Grandy has played a lot of center field in his career, and so has Gardy. We just decided that we were going to go with Grandy in center -- try not to move him around and put him in one spot."

Granderson was acquired from the Tigers in December and immediately anointed as the Yankees' starting center fielder, but a later trade of Melky Cabrera muddled the situation. At his introductory news conference, Granderson said that he would be happy to play anywhere, and he was given time in left field this spring.

While he said that he had been receiving congratulations about winning the center-field job as far back as two weeks ago, Granderson held off talking about it until someone from the Yankees offered him more solid evidence of a decision.

"It's great to know that I can shade a little bit toward the side, because [Gardner] is another center fielder out there that can pick me up a little bit toward that left-center gap," Granderson said. "Especially in New York, where that's the biggest part of the ballpark, we're going to need that.

"I think the one thing that both of us are going to need to work on is just the communication between the two of us. Being both center fielders, you always hear about the issues that two center fielders have out there. Fortunately for us, we haven't had anything like that."

The decision means that Gardner will be standing in front of Fenway Park's Green Monster on Sunday evening, with a good amount of Spring Training innings as a left fielder under his belt -- but none in the big leagues since 2008.

"I've played left field in Fenway before," Gardner said. "I don't really think it's any different than anywhere else, except the wall is higher. Those higher line drives might hit the wall and come back in. If you can get to it, catch it. If not, back off and play it off the wall."

The Yankees gave Gardner the opportunity to compete against Randy Winn and Marcus Thames in Spring Training, proving that he was worthy of a starting role in an outfield that Girardi believes is more athletic and quicker than it was in 2009.

But the Yankees also considered playing the 26-year-old Gardner in center field, his more natural position and a place where analysis suggested that his speed might offer a slight defensive upgrade over Granderson.

"I figured he'd be the center fielder," Gardner said of Granderson. "He's been a center fielder in the past, and when you get a guy like that -- if that's where he's most comfortable, that's where he needs to play.

"I'll do my best to continue to make improvements in left field. All I can ask for is an opportunity to get playing time, no matter where it is."

In the end, the Yankees decided that the payoff was too minute to create additional drama by shuffling Granderson between left and center field based upon whether Gardner is in the lineup.

"We look at Curtis as an everyday player, and you want to have consistency for that guy," Girardi said. "I still believe that Gardy has a chance to be an everyday player and is going to hit. It was just the decision that we made. I don't necessarily think there was a wrong decision."

The move finalizes Granderson's installation as the newest member of a long lineage of great Yankees center fielders, which is a section of club history that Granderson has been brushing up on. A Braves fan growing up, Granderson is ready to put his name in line with the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and -- more recently -- Bernie Williams.

"It's been a learning experience this spring, to understand the history behind that position," Granderson said. "I didn't follow the Yankees much growing up, but to hear about it and learn about it and continue to understand what goes into it, I definitely know right away it's some big shoes to fill out there."