Tigers OF Granderson might be ready for breakout season

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) -- Curtis Granderson has all the tools to be a leadoff man for the Detroit Tigers. He can run, hit, throw and catch.
But is this his breakout season?
Tigers manager Jim Leyland thinks so.
Granderson isn't the typical leadoff hitter. He struck out 174 times last season and walked only 66 times. His .260 batting average in 596 at-bats in his first full season is enough to intrigue Leyland, but it seems to intrigue Granderson even more.
Granderson, 26, has been one of the first Tigers in the locker room during spring training and one of the last to leave. He knows as the leadoff man he has to set the table for the middle of the order, but there's a bit of a dilemma.
Leyland said he wants Granderson to be aggressive, and Granderson said he knows that can lead to strikeouts.
"I just need to get the ball in play and stay aggressive," Granderson said. "I need to stop facing two-strike counts. When I strike out, I feel like I let the team down."
Granderson had only two hits and one walk while striking out seven times in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals last year.
Leyland said he doesn't mind being patient with Granderson, who seems comfortable now with his job as the everyday center fielder.
"You can't make an older player out of a younger player," Leyland said. "It will take some time, but he has a chance to be a great player, no doubt about it."
Leyland said Granderson needs to work the count better, but there also are times he needs to be swinging at the first pitch.
"Look at a guy like (San Diego pitcher) Greg Maddux," Leyland said. "I never had any of my guys take pitches against Maddux, no matter what the score was. You take it, you get strike one. That doesn't make any sense to me."
Leyland said he would let Granderson take his time learning to be a leadoff hitter.
Since beginning his career in the Tigers' organization in 2002, Granderson has had more strikeouts than walks. His highest stolen-base total was 22 in 111 games at Triple-A Toledo in 2005, but no one questions his speed.
Still, with a batting order full of sluggers such as Gary Sheffield and Magglio Ordonez, Leyland said he's content to let Granderson get on base and let the power take care of moving him around.
He also said he doesn't expect Granderson to do any more than just improve his game.
"I don't expect him to be a great player this year," Leyland said. "That would be unfair. I just want him to continue to get better."
Granderson said he's learning a lot in Lakeland this spring, but he won't know until he takes his first cuts against live pitching Wednesday, when the Tigers start their Grapefruit League season in Port St. Lucie against the New York Mets.


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