Yankees officially align outfield
Club to start with Granderson in center, Gardner in left
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."
Burnett ends spring on high note
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- It seems that A.J. Burnett saved the best for last, hurling 4 2/3 solid innings of two-run ball, as the Yankees completed their spring road slate with a 5-2 victory over the Blue Jays at Dunedin Stadium on Thursday.
"I thought it was the best he's looked," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I was really pleased with the way he threw the ball today."
Burnett was touched by a leadoff Jose Bautista home run and a third-inning Adam Lind RBI double, but he said that he was pleased overall with the five-hit performance, which left his Grapefruit League ERA at 5.12 after five starts.
"That was a good tune-up," Burnett said. "I was throwing some good hooks when I needed to, with guys on in strikeout situations. Good changeups, too. A little bit of everything. It went strong."
Burnett has toyed with his changeup in the past, but he was motivated to improve it markedly this spring after watching how hard-throwing CC Sabathia used it to keep batters off balance last year in a 19-win season.
"You'd like it to be a weapon for him and something else that he can go to," Girardi said. "Sometimes you might not find your breaking ball. If you have something else you can go to, it helps."
Burnett isn't about to get away from his bread-and-butter pitches, but having the changeup to complement his fastball and curveball is a pleasant option.
"I think it's a matter of how it is that day," Burnett said. "Today, we realized it was really good, so we threw more than the norm. I'm sure there's days when it'll be off and I'll have the hook or vice versa. The fact that I've worked on it enough to have confidence to throw it whenever is big."
Burnett's final spring start saw him facing the man who caught his last starts of 2009, former Yankee Jose Molina, who has won a backup job with the Blue Jays. Molina flied out and grounded out against his old batterymate.
"He spit on some good curveballs," Burnett said. "I was about to yell at him. They were like, 'Change up the signs!' I didn't think he had them. It's just, he sees it out of my hand enough. He puts a battle up there."
Teixeira tests elbow, feels fine
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Affixing a protective pad to his right elbow didn't seem to slow Mark Teixeira down. The Yankees first baseman returned to action with a single and double in four at-bats on Thursday at Dunedin Stadium.
Teixeira was hit by a Jeremy Guthrie fastball on Monday against the Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., and had spent most of the past two nights icing his elbow and receiving treatment.
"You know your body," Teixeira said. "When you're getting better every day, you feel pretty good. I knew right away I was going to be fine."
Teixeira said that he might consider wearing the protective pad on Opening Night, but generally, he dislikes having his movement restricted in any way.
Posada should return to action Friday
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Yankees catcher Jorge Posada was scratched from Thursday's lineup against the Blue Jays with a stiff neck, though he could return to action as soon as Friday.
Posada said that he tried to take batting practice at Dunedin Stadium, but he told manager Joe Girardi that he was having difficulty.
"It was tough swinging right-handed," the switch-hitting Posada said. "In a day or so, it should be all right."
Posada said that he was not worried about missing Opening Night against the Red Sox on Sunday, but Girardi acknowledged that the thought had at least crossed his mind.
"Obviously, you hope it goes away before Sunday," Girardi said. "Long term, no [concern], but short term, you want to get rid of it as soon as you can. Short term, there's a little concern."
Posada was replaced by P.J. Pilittere, the only other catcher scheduled to be on the trip. Additionally, third baseman Brandon Laird was scratched from Thursday's game with a sore right elbow. He was replaced by Marcos Vechionacci.
"I want to cancel the last week of Spring Training," Girardi said. "It's amazing. All of a sudden, we're getting these little nicks. You want to try to stay away from them, but it's part of the game."
Cervelli questionable for Opening Day
TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees backup catcher Francisco Cervelli has been diagnosed with a Grade 1 (mild) left hamstring strain and may not play for the remainder of Spring Training.
Manager Joe Girardi said Thursday that Cervelli will be continually re-evaluated and is listed as day-to-day. With Opening Day approaching on Sunday, the Yankees will have to hope that the pinching sensation in Cervelli's left leg will abate quickly.
"Right now, if I was to guess, he is not a DL guy," Girardi said. "But we may not play him the rest of Spring Training."
Cervelli felt something tweak in his left hamstring during Tuesday's home game against the Blue Jays and was sent for a precautionary MRI on Wednesday, which revealed the strain.
Should Cervelli begin the season on the disabled list, it is possible that Mike Rivera -- a veteran non-roster invitee who also battled a hamstring issue this spring -- could head north with the club for Opening Night on Sunday at Fenway Park.
"I want to be there," Cervelli said. "I think I will be there."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.