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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Granderson unsure of reception on return to Comerica

DETROIT — You can’t blame Curtis Granderson for feeling a sense of dislocation on Monday.

After six years of entering the field at Comerica Park through the home dugout on the first-base side, he sat in the visitor’s dugout for the first time ever on Monday. He sat on the bench, mobbed by the usual horde of New York media, as well as the hometown Michigan writers, explaining what it felt like to come to the park he grew up in as the enemy for the first time.

“I’m still kind of wondering what it’s going to be like. Every place we go, the Yankees just can’t help but get a little boo(ed) in there. But it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens. Then I’ve gotta go up there and bat, against (Tigers pitcher Justin) Verlander, of all people. It’s going to be very emotional, across the board, just from intensity level ... exciting ... nervous ... all those things wrapped into one,” admitted Granderson.

The popular outfielder was traded to the Yankees two offseasons ago — as part of the three-team blockbuster that brought the Tigers starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Phil Coke, reliever Daniel Schlereth and Granderson’s replacement in center field, Austin Jackson — but missed last year’s trip to Detroit with a groin injury.

He still keeps up with the Tigers he grew up with — Verlander, Brandon Inge, Joel Zumaya, Ryan Raburn — sharing fond memories of their trip to the 2006 World Series. He’s enjoyed playing against his former teammates before.

But he knew Monday night was going to be different.

“It’s exciting, anytime I get to play against them. First time was in spring training, last year, then having them come to us twice, this year and last year, was enjoyable. But the first time coming back here is going to be enjoyable, exciting, nervous, all wrapped up into one,” said Granderson, who didn’t know what kind of reception he’d get from Tigers fans.
“I think it’s going to be 50-50, just because I remember when we’d play the Yankees, when they’d come in, and you can’t help but put some boos out there. So that’s just going to be part of it. Hopefully, there will be some cheers, as well.”

That may have been a bit of an intentional exaggeration.

Aside from an flight layover, Granderson hadn’t been back to the state since shortly after the trade — when he was here for a function for his charity, Grand Kids — but got a warm welcome even boarding the bus from the team hotel Monday morning.

“Today, getting ready to go on the bus, a number of fans wanted autographs, just the comments across the board — ‘Hey, we miss you,’ ‘Come back,’ ‘When are you doing your foundation stuff here?’ So very interesting,” said Granderson, who was amused by the amount of Tigers gear he was asked to autograph.
“I felt like the fans liked the fact when I was here. I also loved the fans here. ... The city of Detroit, the state of Michigan — absolutely amazing, in terms of their loyalty for anything Detroit-based. I mean, the amount of people that carry it with them, no matter where they go, on the road, or here in the state of Michigan, is just amazing.”

Well-deserved awards
Both Brandon Inge and Austin Jackson received their 2010 Players Choice Awards before Monday’s game. Jackson was voted the AL Outstanding Rookie after posting MLB-best rookie numbers in hits (181), runs (103) and stolen bases (27). Inge was voted the Marvin Miller Man of the Year, in part for his work with C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. The award, named after the MLBPA’s first director, is given to the player whose off-field contributions to the community most inspire others.

Lineup sometimes more about match-ups
While Will Rhymes is starting to show some signs of life with the bat — going 5 for his last 14 at-bats, including a 2-for-5 performance in the leadoff slot Sunday, raising his average to .221 — sitting him Monday was as much a function of his replacement as it was how he’s been swinging the bat. Ramon Santiago is 8-for-17 in his career against Yankees starter Bartolo Colon. Aside from Brennan Boesch, who homered in his only at-bat against Colon, the next-best average against the Yankees’ veteran right-hander is Brandon Inge (.348, 8-for-23).


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