CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Joe Girardi spotted the large white poster behind the first-base dugout, covered with photographs of a young life and the words, "Please remember Steven E. Smith." The Yankees manager winced.
Girardi climbed atop a bench in the visitors' dugout at Bright House Field, asking for more information. The man holding the sign, Matthew Smith, told Girardi that his son was a 24-year-old Yankees fan who had his life cut short by a December 2010 car accident.
Girardi not only signed the poster, he invited Smith -- wearing his son's CC Sabathia jersey, emblazoned with the 2009 inaugural-season Yankee Stadium patch on the left sleeve -- down to the field for a better view.
"I'm not really looking for anything today; I just didn't want Steven to be forgotten," Smith said. "When Joe saw the sign, he asked me to come watch batting practice with him, which was an honor."
A Scotch Plains, N.J., product, Steven Smith had graduated from George Washington University and was an aspiring sports broadcaster. He had cultivated a large following on Twitter (@stevensmithy) and hoped to use the social network to launch a professional career.
"He had things to say," said Smith, a lung specialist who relocated to Clearwater after his son's passing. "He was going to be too important of an opinion to ignore. That was his way to elbow in. He had figured it out."
Girardi was touched by the story, which was first relayed to him by YES Network broadcaster Michael Kay. Girardi took the sign and promised to bring it back to George M. Steinbrenner Field so the whole Yankees roster could sign it.
"I just thought it would be nice to bring him out," Girardi said. "He's been through a lot in the last year and a half. You can never imagine what people are going through when something like that happens."
Smith said that his son was buried wearing his favorite Yankees jersey, a Derek Jeter model, and that several players -- including Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson -- stopped by to offer their condolences.
"Steven would have given his life to be out on the field, and he gave his life -- and I was the one out on the field," Smith said. "That's kind of a bitter irony."
Girardi pleased with Grandy's quick start
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Curtis Granderson looks like he hasn't missed a beat coming off his standout 2011 season, but the Yankees' center fielder knows a hot Spring Training start doesn't count for much.
"It's the early part of the spring," said Granderson, who went 2-for-2 with a double, a homer and two runs scored in New York's 8-5 Grapefruit League victory over the Phillies on Saturday. "We've got to do stuff to get ourselves ready for the later part of the spring. Today's Day 1."
Granderson raked a first-inning double off Philadelphia lefty Cole Hamels and logged a wind-aided homer in the third inning facing Dave Bush. Granderson also had two hits in an exhibition against the University of South Florida on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
"It was just picking up where he left off last year," manager Joe Girardi said. "He looks very good. He hit the ball hard [on Friday] as well. It was really good to see."
Granderson set career highs in home runs (41), RBIs (119) and runs scored (136) last year and said his plate mechanics with hitting coach Kevin Long are still a work in progress. Granderson added that the windy conditions at Bright House Field on Saturday helped.
"From BP, we were watching the ball just constantly fly out of the ballpark," Granderson said. "As long as you put a decent swing on it, you had a chance."
Homer only blemish on Nova's line
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- This early in camp, the Yankees weren't expecting Ivan Nova's stuff to be crisp. All manager Joe Girardi really hoped to see from the returning 16-game winner were strikes.
For the most part, they got their wish. Nova hurled two innings, allowing a two-run homer to Hunter Pence and no other hits in his Grapefruit League debut. Nova took a no-decision in New York's 8-5 win over the Phillies.
"I feel I did good," Nova said. "I threw strikes; at the beginning, I was a little loose with my location, but after that, we picked it up. The second inning was much better."
Nova said he was surprised that Pence unloaded on a 3-0 pitch, which the right-hander was just trying to groove over the plate for a strike. Only one of the runs Nova permitted was earned.
"[Pence] got a really good swing," Nova said. "I don't know about wind, but he got really good contact. When I heard the contact, I said, 'That ball is gone.'"
Girardi said that Nova's changeup worked well for him on Saturday and that it is something that the Yankees are looking for him to improve. Nova acknowledged that he came into this start hoping to fine-tune that pitch.
"I threw a couple good ones, a couple swing-and-miss ones," Nova said. "That's the good thing; when you come and you want to work on a pitch and you throw a couple and get a couple swing-and-miss, that's good. We have to keep working. I have to do the best I can."
One of the points manager Joe Girardi made to his team in his spring kickoff speech was that the Yankees used 28 pitchers last year, and that everyone in camp has a chance to help at the big league level. Those words resonated with right-hander David Phelps.
"We were down in Triple-A last year, seeing a lot of our friends and teammates getting called up," said Phelps, who pitched two scoreless innings on Saturday. "It's great watching them pitch, and it's like, 'I could be next.' It's a matter of going out and doing your job, and hopefully, your turn will come. It's definitely motivation."
Yankees designated hitter Raul Ibanez was received warmly by Phillies fans at Bright House Field during introductions -- at least, so he thinks. The fans howled his first name, which can sound a lot like booing.
"I can't tell the difference," said Ibanez, who said Phillies fans always treated him well. "I'd like to think that they were 'Rauuuls.' I think that those were good ones."
Right-hander Dellin Betances had a wild outing on Saturday, walking two of the four batters he faced but inducing a timely double play from the Phillies' Kevin Frandsen.
"It wasn't as good as I wanted it to be," Betances said. "It's the first time. I was glad I was able to get out of the jam with a double play, but I've got to be better than that. I just felt like I was trying to do too much."