By Ernie Palladino
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Melky Mesa, Juan Rivera, Matt Diaz, Zoilo Almonte, Ronnier Mustelier.
Not exactly Murderer’s Row, right? But that’s what losing Curtis Granderson for 10 weeks with a busted forearm has wrought for Joe Girardi’s outfield situation.
When this month-long search for Granderson’s replacement ends, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to think that none of these guys will be featured regularly in left field, next to the fleet Brett Gardner in center. Instead, there’s a guy out there who definitely won’t do a thing to make the league’s oldest team any younger, but who could probably still do a decent job at the plate and an acceptable job in the field and give the fans a thrill, too.
That man is Johnny Damon, and he’s unemployed right now.
Of course, part of the reason for that is that he’s 39 years old. There’s not much of a market for old guys like that, unless you’re in the habit of collecting aged stars.
Oh, wait. The Yanks love that stuff.
And Damon, who starred in the Bronx from 2006-09 before heading off for stints in Detroit and Tampa Bay, hasn’t had to use up a lot of cell-phone minutes this winter talking about playing situations and finances with other general managers. He’s free, and apparently more than willing to return to the team that made him a favorite among the Bleacher Creatures in the old joint.
“I can still hit,” Damon told the New York Daily News. “I know I’m better than 70 to 80 percent of the guys out there. I know if I played every day, I’d be really good.”
It doesn’t look like Brian Cashman will call him. And if he does, will Damon really come? This is likely to turn into a temporary position, which means that once Granderson comes back, his substitute will either be released or demoted to the minors.
Damon probably wouldn’t go for a six-week gig, and neither would most other vets. It might make more sense to trade for someone like 37-year-old Alfonso Soriano or Vernon Wells, since they can play the outfield and then revert to designated hitter once Granderson returns.
But that’s not likely to happen.
“We’re not looking for a long-term solution,” Girardi said. “If you find a long-term solution, then what does that do to you once all your guys are back?”
Actually, the manager sounds a bit too optimistic there. With Granderson getting hurt in the exhibition game, the tea leaves and chicken bones are starting to point toward the negative. This could well turn into an injury-filled season, especially since Gardner’s full-out playing style in center makes him susceptible to repeat his injury problems of last season, when a dive wrecked his elbow and nearly knocked him out for the year.
Injuries always lurk in the background, however, and no team can truly be prepared for a spate of them. The idea is to handle them one situation at a time. In this one, with Granderson out until May, it appears the manager would rather find his solution internally.
Diaz and Rivera are veterans, but are non-roster invitees working on minor-league contracts. Almonte, Mesa and Mustelier are minor leaguers and unproven on the major league level.
It’s a headache, for sure. But at least this one looks like a short-term one.
How should the Yankees proceed in replacing Grandy for the start of the season? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…