When I menioned in my Michigan baseball post that sometimes major leaguers rehab with their affiliates, little did I realize that my second game out this year I would be treated such an event. Most of the time I avoid weekend night games because they can get too crowded, especially when the weather is this nice, but a chance to see Curtis Granderson play for the Whitecaps was enough to get me out there Friday night.
Howie Beardsley of the GR Press compares this visit with one from pitcher Kenny Rogers last year.
Some of the crowd of 10,056 who came to Fifth Third Ballpark to see Granderson go 2-for-4 at the plate with an infield single, a triple and two long and loud flyouts to center field think thought Rogers pitching here before a season-high crowd of 10,537 was a bigger deal.
I emphatically beg to differ.
Rogers was a main attraction in our minor-league ballpark because he's a wily ol' veteran whose days in the big leagues are numbered after 20 years of service.
Granderson is the future of Detroit Tigers baseball. If his early numbers after just two full major league seasons are any indication, then he is destined to become a consistent All-Star because of his golden glove, potent bat and blazing speed.
He looks ready to go now. Granderson said that he "felt really slow out there". Well, if that is what he is like when he is "slow", he must be blazing fast when he is 100%. The infield single that he hit bounced off the ground in front of the plate and rolled toward the 2nd baseman...
Granderson said he felt more comfortable as the game progressed. "As I got through my at-bats, I pretty much got back to normal," he said. It was more than his timing that was off, Granderson said. Beating out an infield single and again on the triple, he said his legs and wind didn't feel anywhere near 100 percent.
He beat the throw by two steps, and then beat the throw into 2nd when the next batter put the ball in play...
Nearly 8,000 tickets were sold in the 24 hours after it was announced Thursday night that Granderson would be here - nothing like having a Tiger show up to get those fans out to the park. Curtis signed autographs for the line of people who came early to catch batting practice - in this photo you can see how they have taped up his hand. They wrapped and re-wrapped it throughout the warm-ups, trying to find something that would be comfortable.
His speed and power were apparent on the triple that he hit - no play was made at the base. He was just there...
... although he was tagged out at home when the next batter couldn't get the ball out of the infield and Burlington made a great throw to the plate.
Last night in Toledo he had another double and single in four appearances; today will be the final test to see if he is ready to return to the Tigers. The decision has been left up to him - if he says he is ready to go, they bring him back.
If he doesn't have any swelling in his right hand in the next 24 hours, and if his timing returns in the two games at Toledo, he said he will begin to think about his major league return. But even if all goes according to plan, Granderson said he wouldn't be surprised to be back in Grand Rapids for Monday's game against Beloit.
The Whitecaps would love to see him return- those that couldn't make it Friday would get another chance Monday if that turns out to be the case. I'm sure they will pack the place again.
More pictures of Granderson can be found here, or hit the slideshow version to see them full size.
And get out to your local park soon!