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Gardner now frontrunner for center-field job

TAMPA, Fla. -- It wasn't how the Yankees would have scripted it to play out, but the organization's big spring center-field competition appears to have been settled in just one half-inning.

Brett Gardner became a strong favorite to serve as New York's Opening Day center fielder after Curtis Granderson suffered a fractured right forearm that is expected to keep him out of action until early May.

Gardner played center field in the Yanks' 2-0 loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday and, speaking before the Yankees learned the severity of Granderson's injury, said that he was adjusting well to getting back in center field.

"It was all right; just five innings or whatever," Gardner said. "I felt OK out there. The one ball that got over my head, the ball that [Anthony] Gose hit, I froze for a split second off the bat and I thought I was gonna catch it, but it just kept going."

Gardner was unable to catch up to Gose's third-inning triple off Cody Eppley, but he won't lose any sleep over it.

"I think if I had gotten a really good jump, I still wouldn't have caught it," Gardner said. "I was probably three solid steps from getting to it. It just kept going, but I felt good."

Gardner led off for the Yankees in their home spring opener and, though he acknowledged the club also has legitimate choices like Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki, Gardner hopes that he can also be considered for the top spot in the lineup.

"I'd like to lead off. It'd be silly to say I love hitting ninth, you know?" Gardner said. " ... It's not something I'm really concerned with, but maybe if I have a really good spring it's something they'll consider."