PORT ST. LUCIE — Curtis Granderson is among those curious whether his soon-to-be 36-year-old legs can handle the grind of center field on a regular basis for the Mets in 2017.
Last year, Granderson handled the position admirably over the final two months of the regular season, after Jay Bruce arrived at the trade deadline and displaced him from right field.
But now Granderson potentially will face a six-month haul in center, after the Mets were unsuccessful in their attempts to trade Bruce in the offseason.
“It is doable definitely, but we also have a lot of great guys who at any time, if needed, can go out there,” Granderson said Thursday.
Juan Lagares is expected to serve as Granderson’s backup in center, giving the Mets a Gold Glove winner coming off the bench. Michael Conforto was respectable defensively in limited opportunities last season in center. Jose Reyes also could get a look in center during spring training.
The Mets began last year with Yoenis Cespedes in center, but moved him to left because of a quadriceps injury that slowed him for much of the season. Manager Terry Collins doesn’t plan to ask Cespedes to play even an occasional game in center this season.
Granderson played plenty of center field with the Tigers and Yankees, but gradually moved away from the position in recent years.
“Yeah, I have got to get Grandy out of there a little more than I have in the past,” Collins said. “I think he’s got to be smart, and he certainly is, that you have got to make sure he can have some days off so you can maintain that quality of play you are going to need in that position.
“He is one of those guys who nods his head and shows up ready to play. As we are sitting here today, I know we are going to have to give him a few more days off than we have in the past.”
Granderson had a strong final month of the regular season, to finish with a .237/.335/.464 slash line with 30 homers and 59 RBIs. Though the Mets listened to trade proposals over the winter, they nixed the idea of dealing him based on the versatility he can bring to the lineup and field in addition to valuing his clubhouse leadership.
“I’m going to be the best outfielder I can be whether that is left, center or right, but the fact that our first [exhibition] game is in February will be helpful,” Granderson said. “If I happen to be out there one of the first couple of games, I am going to test it. Fans, if you see we let balls drop, we are just out there testing a lot of things because we are going to see what we can cover.
“Knowing that you may not get to a ball in February or March is a lot different than not getting to a ball in August or September, so that is the good thing about getting a chance to play as early and often if it happens to be in center field.”
As Granderson prepares to enter the final season of a four-year, $60 million contract with the Mets he is taking nothing for granted beyond 2017.
“Now I am the oldest guy here with the Mets,” Granderson said. “I never thought I would be saying that with any team that I am on. Now this is going to be the end of it. I am excited for whatever chapter happens to be next. If I continue to play I am going to look forward to it, mentally and physically.
“Mentally I am still excited to come every day. Hopefully the opportunity presents itself for me after this. If not, it has been a great run, I have enjoyed it, and there will be some other things I will enjoy doing as well.”
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