Yankees: Grandy's replacement likely in-house
SARASOTA, Fla. -- On the first full day that the Yankees pondered their Opening Day outfield without Curtis Granderson, you couldn't say that non-roster hopefuls Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera did much to bolster their chances of making the roster.
The good news for both players, who turned in hitless performances in the Yanks' 5-1 loss to the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium, is that manager Joe Girardi sees no rush to decide who his new left fielder will be.
Thanks everyone for all your prayers and wishes.Just a small bump in the road.I'll be back soon and ready to go!— Curtis Granderson (@cgrand14) February 26, 2013
"It could very well take until the end of camp," said Girardi, who joked the Yankees might not have named a left fielder by their March 30 exhibition against Army. "There are a lot of factors that go into it."
Granderson is expected to miss 10 weeks with a fractured right forearm, but only half of that should elapse during the regular season. In the meantime, Granderson's misfortune will create opportunities for others in camp.
"If they choose to give me that job, of course I'd love it," Diaz said. "I'd love the opportunity, but there's 43 home runs we need back soon. That's my first thought. My son and I prayed for Grandy last night. We need him back."
Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman said that they are not looking for long-term solutions, which means the Yankees are likely to sidestep any temptation of dealing for pricey veterans like the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano or the Angels' Vernon Wells.
The Yankees also do not seem to be in a hurry to add any more names to the mix in camp, though that didn't stop free agent Johnny Damon from offering his services in a radio interview on Monday.
"We will focus on what we have at this time," Cashman responded.
Diaz and Rivera had been competing for spots as non-roster invitees even before Granderson's injury, as the Yankees had been seeking a right-handed bat for their lefty-heavy outfield.
"We've got some good depth," said Brett Gardner, who will shift to center field with Granderson sidelined. "We've got veterans that have been there, done that before. We'll be fine. We've got a good pitching staff, and we'll play good defense, and he'll come back in May and probably still hit 40 [homers]."
Rivera, 34, said he is without a guaranteed roster spot for the first time since he was a Yankees farmhand. Dealt by New York to the Expos in the December 2003 Javier Vazquez trade, Rivera hit .244 with nine homers and 47 RBIs in 109 games for the Dodgers last season.
"I don't [feel] any pressure right now," Rivera said. "I know what I can do. I'll try to do my job and make the team."
Diaz, 34, said that he is completely healthy after having a pair of troublesome palm frond splinters removed from his right thumb over the winter. He was limited to 51 games with the Braves last year, batting .222 with two homers and 13 RBIs, and grew up as a fan of Matt Nokes and the Yankees in Lakeland, Fla.
"One of the reasons they bring guys like me into a camp like this is to add depth, with the understanding that over the course of a long spring -- especially this spring -- and a long season, you're going to need depth," Diaz said.
Though there are no blockbuster top prospects knocking on the door, the Yankees do have some in-house outfield options from their farm system.
Switch-hitter Zoilo Almonte, 23, opened eyes in the club's first exhibition game with an opposite-field homer and an outfield assist, and Cashman said the Yankees view Almonte -- who played last year at Double-A Trenton -- as a future corner outfielder.
"We have future everyday right fielder scouting grades on him," Cashman said. "I think you're going to see a lot of young kids open some eyes this spring."
The Yankees are also high on outfielder Melky Mesa, whom Girardi said is the best defensive option in camp to take over left field. The 26-year-old briefly saw time with the Yankees in September and hit 23 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A, batting a combined .264 in 121 games.
"If they need me at some point, I'm going to be here," Mesa said. "I just try to work hard. I can't control the results, I'll just be here."
It is possible that the Yankees could find a way to carry Mesa in addition to a player like Diaz or Rivera, using Mesa as a defensive replacement or pinch-runner later in games.
Additionally, the Yankees have a relatively unknown option in camp. Cuban defector Ronnier Mustelier, a 28-year-old, has shown a potent bat in the Minors. Girardi noted that the outfield is a newer position for him after moving from the infield.
"He's a guy that's going to get a look, no doubt about it," Girardi said.
When he spoke to his catchers last week, Girardi said that offense was secondary to defense behind the plate. Now that the Yankees are missing Granderson, however, Girardi would prefer to have someone in left field who can contribute on both sides of the ball.
"I want someone who can do everything," Girardi said. "Is that too much to ask? I don't know. That's what you want, someone who's going to be productive for you and play some good defense. We'll just have to see how that shakes out."