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New outfielder Curtis Granderson finds a role in Dodgers' 3-0 victory over Tigers

New outfielder Curtis Granderson finds a role in Dodgers' 3-0 victory over Tigers
Curtis Granderson scores on a single by Adrian Gonzalez in the seventh inning of the Dodgers' 3-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday at Comerica Park. (Dave Reginek / Getty Images)

When he heard the news, Curtis Granderson could not decide whether to smile. Around 11:30 p.m. EDT on Friday, he sat inside New York Mets manager Terry Collins' office at Citi Field. With him were Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson. They told him he would no longer be a member of the Mets, an organization Granderson came to love during his four seasons in it.

The departure stung, Granderson explained. The destination did not.

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About 13 hours later, Granderson did not have to couch his happiness. He was in the visitors dugout at Detroit's Comerica Park on his first day as a Dodger. The lineup listed him as the left fielder. He would bat fifth. He had caught a flight Saturday morning to join his new club.

"This team has their makeup, their identity, what it is," Granderson said before scoring the go-ahead run in the Dodgers' 3-0 interleague victory over Detroit. "I'm just trying to come in and be a part of it."

Granderson contributed with his legs. He hustled to second base in the sixth inning when third baseman Nick Castellanos misplayed a popup for an error, and scored on a single by Adrian Gonzalez. The Dodgers strung together a shutout behind five innings from Hyun-Jin Ryu, two from Ross Stripling, one from Brandon Morrow and a clean ninth from Kenley Jansen.

The arrival of Granderson, a 36-year-old pending free agent acquired for a player to be named or cash considerations, came with consequences. The team optioned slumping center fielder Joc Pederson to triple-A Oklahoma City. Granderson joins a roster overflowing with talent and adds to the logistical puzzle confronting manager Dave Roberts.

During the final six weeks of the regular season, as the Dodgers (87-34) charge toward a franchise record for victories, Roberts and the front office will juggle playing time among various outfielders, infielders and utility players. On Saturday, Yasiel Puig got the day off as Granderson played left field, Chris Taylor played center and Cody Bellinger played right. The permutations are not endless, but there will be many more to come.

"We've turned over every stone," Roberts said, "as far as looking at potential weaknesses or something that could be exploited, and adding depth."

The depth got tested Saturday. Bellinger left after rolling an ankle on a leaping catch near the outfield wall in the sixth. The Dodgers described Bellinger's injury as a "mild" sprain.

Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu held the Tigers scoreless on three hits over five innings of work on Saturday in Detroit.
Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu held the Tigers scoreless on three hits over five innings of work on Saturday in Detroit. (Dave Reginek / Getty Images)

Bellinger's ankle was swollen after the game, and he is unlikely to start Sunday. The medical staff did not believe the injury merited an MRI exam or X-ray, Roberts said.

"I'm going to live," Bellinger said. "No grave is needed."

The front office of the Dodgers has chosen not to rest after acquiring pitcher Yu Darvish on July 31. The team monitored the trade market during the last few weeks, pouncing on Granderson as Pederson continued his second-half swoon. Pederson has batted .156 with a .565 on-base-plus-slugging percentage since the All-Star break.

Roberts framed Pederson's demotion as "an opportunity to reset." Pederson did not travel to Oklahoma City alone. Shawn Wooten, an organizational hitting coach who has worked with Pederson, left the clubhouse Saturday before the game. Wooten had worked closely with Pederson on a revamped stance, which Pederson debuted Friday, finishing one for three with a double.

"In a major league setting, it's really hard to continue to perform without looking at the scoreboard, when you're looking at your average," Roberts said.

Until the rosters expand Sept. 1, Roberts intends to use Taylor and Enrique Hernandez as the primary center fielders. Granderson handled center field in 58 games for the Mets this season, but the Dodgers view him primarily as a left fielder. Andre Ethier is still expected to compete to earn a role as a pinch-hitter when he makes his 2017 debut in September, Roberts said.

Granderson returned Saturday to the ballpark where he made his big league debut nearly 13 years ago. He was selected to his first All-Star team in 2009 while with the Tigers, finished fourth in the American League's most-valuable-player voting in 2011 while with the New York Yankees and aided a Mets team en route to the World Series in 2015.

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During advance meetings before a 2015 National League division series, discussions on how to neutralize Granderson stumped Dodgers officials, general manager Farhan Zaidi recalled. Daniel Murphy stole the show in that series, but Granderson was not far behind. He batted .389 and scored five runs as the Mets won in five games.

"He was a guy we had a lot of difficulty talking through, because he is such a challenging guy to try to pitch to," Zaidi said. "A tough guy to put away quickly. He makes pitchers work."

On Saturday morning, Justin Turner exchanged friends with his former teammate, David Wright, the Mets captain. Granderson carries a spotless reputation. He won the Roberto Clemente Award last season for his charity work, which is mostly based out of his hometown in Chicago. Wright vouched for Granderson.

"He reinforced how great of a guy he was, on and off the field," Turner said. "A great presence in the clubhouse. There isn't a thing that you can do to [tick] him off."

Granderson arrived with an .815 OPS, which does not capture his recent performance. He tanked in April, hit one home run and had a .395 OPS. After that, he hit .263 with 18 homers and a .953 OPS. He does most of his damage against right-handed pitchers.

Granderson presented himself to Roberts as a pliable contributor. He said he does not mind where he bats in the lineup. He feels comfortable in all three outfield positions. He was thrilled to join the best team in baseball.

"Wherever they happen to put me," Granderson said, "I'll be out there doing my thing."

Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter @McCulloughTimes

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