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02/12/11 11:54 AM EST

Yanks' Granderson centered in Spring approach

TAMPA, Fla. -- From the moment Curtis Granderson took his first swings of the spring, everything felt more familiar, down to the batting cage surrounding him and the revamped swing the Yankees center fielder is bringing back.

That comfort zone and normalcy is welcome for Granderson, who aims to improve on a first season wearing pinstripes that had mixed results and -- at times -- had him feeling like the new kid in school.

"All those firsts are done with," Granderson said. "I know the guys more, I know the facility more, I know the coaching staff more. There's not that anxious, 'How's it going to go?'"

As Granderson went through the paces of his first hitting and fielding drills at the Yankees' Minor League complex on Friday, he said that he hopes to carry over the changes that made his last six weeks in uniform much more enjoyable.

"It's good to get outside again," Granderson said. "The gym is great, and I can do everything I need to, but it still doesn't simulate the sky and the size of the field, and the intensity of the coaches and other players."

Having submitted his swing to an emergency overhaul during an August series in Texas, Granderson and hitting coach Kevin Long will reunite next week in the cages, looking to keep the changes intact that boiled down his approach at the plate.

"As funny as it is, last year the adjustments -- because they were talked about -- seemed complicated and major," Granderson said. "They were actually really simple. We've just got to do the same thing, keep everything simple.

"We don't need a lot of moving parts, a lot of crazy positioning. As long as we're in the right spot with as little movement as possible, ready to attack the baseball, that's going to be the main focus. The simpler the better."

The results were promising. After Aug. 12, Granderson hit .261 with 14 home runs and 34 RBIs, posting a .920 OPS, and he hit .357 (10-for-28) with a homer and six RBIs in nine postseason games.

That surge helped salvage a season in which Granderson dipped coming off an All-Star '09 season with the Tigers, finishing with a .247 batting average alongside 24 home runs and 67 RBIs.

He said the most frustrating part of the year was a left groin strain that cost him most of May, but on the whole, he came away with a different impression than what he'd expected of what life would be like as a Yankee.

"I thought we were going to be hated a little more on the road," Granderson said, with a smile. "I felt like we were pretty well received. I wasn't sure how big the following was going to be.

 "Going to places like Baltimore at the end of the season, I think it was majority Yankee fans. Everything across the board, I think lived up to what it was going to be."

After beginning his winter workouts at the University of Illinois-Chicago in November, Granderson arrived in Tampa on Thursday, fresh off a 10-day excursion to New Zealand as an ambassador for Major League Baseball.

While Granderson got to take in the sights in towns like Auckland and Queenstown -- touring on the back of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, taking in cricket and riding a zipline -- he said the part that surprised him most was feeling like he'd never left the United States.

"The food was amazing, the people were great," Granderson said. "It was so Americanized that it surprised me. The shows that the group of people my age grew up watching -- The Cosby Show, In Living Color, Martin.

 "I was like, 'You guys know about this?' They were quoting lines, and [referencing] different musical artists like Heavy D, Jodeci, Boyz II Men. I was in shock. I said, 'I feel just like I'm at home.'"

You could say Granderson has a similar sensation here, as the Yankees begin to filter into town, gearing up for another run at their ultimate goal.

While Granderson acknowledged that any team would have loved to have Cliff Lee and Andy Pettitte on the roster, he applauded the Yankees' winter moves, saying that the same core is being augmented by some important additions.

"I feel what we had last year in coming up short against Texas is pretty much coming back again, with a couple of added pieces and changes that should hopefully get us over that hump and right where we want to be," Granderson said.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.