03/23/10 1:09 PM ET
Granderson seeing things differently now
Outfielder wearing contacts to give him an edge at dish
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Granderson looks about the same as he did during his springs with the Tigers, but he is seeing differently. When Granderson ripped an opposite-field double off the Phillies' Cole Hamels on Monday, for example, he did so through clearer eyes -- contact lenses that have improved his vision to 20/20.
"Hey, I'm always into trying something new and changing it up," Granderson said. "I've been doing it my whole career. You pick what works and toss out what doesn't."
The 29-year-old outfielder had never tried contact lenses before being traded to the Yankees, when a routine December physical revealed that there might have been a slight issue with Granderson's vision.
The medical reports showed that Granderson was playing with 20/30 vision, which wouldn't even raise a red flag for a license applicant at any Department of Motor Vehicles, but it gave the Yankees an idea.
If Granderson could be helped on the field even marginally by improving his eyesight, why not give it a try?
"You get your eyes tested every year," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "At some point, all of us need glasses or contacts. I found out over the winter that he was going to try contacts and see how he liked them.
"It may turn out to be [a major improvement]. Who knows? Obviously, you want your vision as good as possible. Some guys, maybe it affects a little bit more. We'll see how he does."
Granderson actually toyed with the idea of having LASIK surgery instead of getting the contact lenses, but the recovery period bumped too closely against the beginning of Spring Training.
"I didn't want to come down here and still be trying to recover from it," Granderson said. "It was recommended that, if we do ever do that, to wait until the absolute end of the season."
The willingness to try contact lenses is just one more check in the column of goodwill that Granderson has been filling this spring. He agreed early to tweak his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long, hoping to improve his results against left-handed pitching, against which he batted just .183 last season.
Acquired with the intention of being New York's starting center fielder, Granderson has also been open-minded to the idea of playing left field this season, if Girardi decides that Brett Gardner presents a better defensive option in center.
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But how much will the contacts help? While Granderson has manned his position in the outfield, he has noticed some watering in his eyes on windy days and expects some difficulty tracking balls during twilight, but nothing to suggest that his performance will improve drastically.
"I don't know yet, honestly. It's weird," Granderson said. "It's not like anything has looked that much better. I wish I could do a side-by-side and see it. I've noticed the different things that come with contacts -- the wind blurring them up, something may get in my eye, or something like that.
"I haven't noticed anything crazy or different. I wish I could. I want to know too, because I don't know. I don't know how I'm going to know."
One clue would be if Granderson starts picking up the seam rotation on pitches, something he has already compiled more than 2,500 at-bats in the big leagues without experiencing once.
"I remember the eye doctor saying after he tested me, 'You can't see the spin on a baseball, can you?'" Granderson said. "I know when people have made mention of, 'Hey, I picked the spin up right away,' or, 'Did you see that spin?' I never knew what people were talking about.
"That's always been from Little League until now; I never figured that out. I think some guys have a knack to pick up things, like if a guy is tipping a pitch or something. Unless he's obvious, I can't do it. Maybe I will see the spin."
Wanting to make sure he wasn't alone in this, Granderson leaned over and tapped the shoulder of the player in the next locker. Could Reid Gorecki, a non-roster outfielder in Yankees camp, see something that Granderson couldn't?
"Sometimes," Gorecki responded. "Curveballs, more than other pitches. Not really so much on sliders. I have a tough time picking up sliders."
Curiosity piqued, Granderson next shot the same inquiry over to Nick Swisher, who was dressing in an adjacent stall.
"Heck, no," Swisher said. "I hit the heaters, bro. Some guys have a knack. Manny Ramirez is one. Aramis Ramirez is another. I guess I was brought up to hit the fastballs. My dad always told me, 'If you can't hit the fastballs, you can't play in the big leagues.'"
Truth is, there just aren't many guys like Ted Williams floating around the big leagues. The Red Sox great is reputed to have had 20/10 eyesight during his playing days, confirmed by the Navy, and that certainly would have been a plus in his favor on the way to a .344 lifetime average.
But while Granderson may not be picking up red dots on pitches, he's satisfied to know that everything should be more focused, on and off the field. If that leads to one more hit or one more outfield putout along the way, it will have been worth it.
"I don't feel like I'm seeing 10 times better," Granderson said. "If anything, things are just a little bit sharper."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.