When former Yankees slugger Curtis Granderson crossed New York to join the Mets this offseason, he instantly endeared himself to his new fan base by seemingly taking a shot at Yankees fans.
“A lot of the people I’ve met in New York have always said true New Yorkers are Mets fans,” he said after signing a $60 million, four-year contract with the Mets.
At Cashman Field for Las Vegas’ annual Big League Weekend, the easygoing Granderson claimed his comment wasn’t aimed at Yankees fans.
“It was something I had heard over the past four seasons (in New York),” he said. “It definitely wasn’t a jab, by any means. I had no reason to take a jab at the fans. The fans have been great to me.
“I was just repeating something that somebody else said and everybody ran with it and put it as I actually said it. If I’m going to take a jab, I’m really going to take it. But I’ve got no reason to take it.”
Granderson went 0-for-2 on Sunday, his 33rd birthday, in the Mets’ 6-3 exhibition loss to the Chicago Cubs before 10,408 fans at Cashman.
New York’s biggest free-agent signing since Jason Bay in 2009, Granderson is expected to bolster the Mets’ offense while batting cleanup behind David Wright.
“He’s one of the best players in baseball,” New York manager Terry Collins said. “You add a player like that to the middle of the lineup, you’re better automatically.
“If he plays like he has in the past, especially with who’s hitting in front of him, he’s going to drive in runs. That’s why we got him.”
A three-time All-Star, Granderson hit 84 home runs and had 225 RBIs in 2011 and 2012 for the Yankees.
Injuries limited him to 61 games last season, when he hit .229 with seven homers and 15 RBIs. He fractured his right forearm in his first spring game last year, when he was hit by a pitch. After missing most of the first two months of the season, he played in eight games before fracturing his left pinkie when he was hit by another pitch.
Fully healed from the fluke injuries, Granderson hopes to help the Mets snap a string of five straight losing seasons this year.
“The big thing for me was I wanted to go somewhere where I’ve got an opportunity to win,” he said. “I feel this organization has got that. They’ve got a lot of pieces in place.”
Granderson spent the first six seasons of his career with the Tigers, helping them to the 2006 World Series. He compared New York’s promising youth movement to the one he was part of in Detroit.
“This organization has won in the minor leagues,” he said. “It’s very similar to when I was in the minor leagues with the Tigers and a lot of young guys got a chance to make the big league team in 2006.
“When you start winning at a very young age and stay collectively, those guys start to get up, along with some veterans such as Bartolo Colon, David Wright, Chris Young and myself. It could be a good formula for some positive things to come.”
Besides bringing a big left-handed bat to the ballclub, Granderson provides several other intangibles, Wright said.
“He’s a winner. He’s had success in New York and brings a certain professionalism,” Wright said. “He also has that kind of quiet confidence and that aura when he walks in the clubhouse. Especially with that young outfield, guys just gravitate toward him.
“I think he’ll be a huge addition for us.”
A center fielder for most of his career, Granderson is expected to start in right field for the Mets. Chris Young or Juan Lagares is expected to start in center, with Young or Eric Young Jr. in left.
“The good thing is this outfield over here is very athletic,” Granderson said. “Terry is going to have the ability to move guys in and out of left, right and center because he knows we all can play any position.”
Granderson dismissed the notion that he might have to alter his approach at the plate after moving from the short right porch at Yankee Stadium to more spacious Citi Field.
“It’s funny. Everyone talks about altering your approach but whenever you play on the road, nobody asks you, ‘Oh, you’re playing in Texas, do you change your approach for this three-game series?’ ” he said. “I played in (Detroit’s) Comerica Park, which is a very large ballpark, probably bigger than Citi Field. You’ve still got to hit it. You’ve still got to get a pitch you can drive.”
Granderson, who hit 30 homers for the Tigers in 2009, hit 108 homers for the Yankees from 2010 through 2012, including 47 on the road.
In mid-May, Granderson will return to Yankee Stadium with the Mets. He doesn’t expect to be serenaded with “The Grandy Man” song.
“Hopefully I’ll be well received, but I understand fans love their teams and I’m not with that team anymore,” he said.
■ NOTES — The teams combined for five home runs, with Donnie Murphy, Dan Vogelbach and Arismendy Alcantara going deep for the Cubs and ex-51s Andrew Brown and Zach Lutz homering for the Mets. ... Chicago third baseman Kris Bryant, a Bonanza High product, went 0-for-3. ... A total of 19,514 fans attended the two-game series.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.