Miami Marlins

Marlins’ Curtis Granderson returns to where it began in Detroit, now as wizened veteran

Jeter: “When you compete, you’re competing to win”

"When you compete, you're competing to win", said Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter during a press conference at Marlins Park the day before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training
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"When you compete, you're competing to win", said Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter during a press conference at Marlins Park the day before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training

It didn’t take Curtis Granderson to run across some stardom when he arrived in MLB. The outfielder batted .272 during an abbreviated rookie season in 2005 and was a regular in the Detroit Tigers’ lineup by the start of his first full season. After his second full season in 2017, Granderson finished 10th in voting for the American League MVP award.

More than a decade later, Granderson isn’t nearly the player he was in his breakout season -- or the player he was in any of his three All-Star seasons in the next five years -- but he’s still, surprising even himself, a Major League regular.

“I never thought I’d stay this long,” Granderson said, “so I’m very fortunate and blessed to get a chance to play this long, which has been really cool.”

As he has been more often than not in his first season with the Miami Marlins, Granderson is in the leadoff spot and playing left field Tuesday as the Marlins open up a three-game series against the Tigers at Comerica Park. While this isn’t the 38-year-old’s first series back in Detroit since he was traded away after the 2009 season, return trips have been infrequent since 2013, when he signed with the New York Mets. Granderson has spent less than one full season playing for AL teams since.

Now the three-time All-Star has his regular spot in Miami’s lineup because of the veteran savvy he provides at the top of an inexperienced order. Entering the series in Michigan, Granderson is third on the Marlins (13-31) with 13 walks and second with five home runs. Despite his .178 batting average, Granderson has started 30 games for the last-place club.

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His bigger influences, however, come in the clubhouse, where he’s one of only three position players older than 30. Before the season, fellow outfielder Lewis Brinson picked out a locker next to Granderson’s to learn by osmosis before he was optioned to Triple A Newe Orleans in April. In the midst of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cincinnati Reds in April, Granderson was the player who wrote an encouraging message on the whiteboard inside the visitors’ clubhouse at Great American Ball Park, complete with translations into Spanish and even Taiwanese.

“The fact that I can bring some experience and people are interested in some of the stuff that I can hopefully help with,” Granderson said, “and if I can’t provide for them, I’m going to try to point them in the direction of someone who can.”

Still, Granderson’s production needs to come more consistently against the Tigers (18-26) for Miami to build on its season-long three-game winning streak.

Until then, Granderson’s approach can at least be a tone-setter for the Marlins. Miami sees an average of just 3.84 pitches per plate appearance this season, the fifth fewest in MLB. For all his struggles, Granderson still sees an average of 4.28 pitches per plate appearance, which would place him in the top 20 if he qualified. Even at 38, Granderson is adapting to a changing game and whatever role his team needs.

“It’s just understanding and knowing that things are going to evolve,” Granderson said. “There’s things that are used now that haven’t been used in the past. This has always been a numbers game, but there’s obviously a lot more numbers now. I saw some stat today — I don’t even know what it is and I’m still trying to find the definition of it and all they kept talking about was all this other stuff. I was like, What does it mean? Tell me what these initials mean and I couldn’t figure it out and it’s really just amazing that there’s so much more of that now.”

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