COMMENTARY | Competition for the New York Yankees' outfield openings heated up Sunday with the announcement that the team's leading home-run hitter, Curtis Granderson, suffered a fractured right forearm.
"Five pitches in and now we have to go out and alter things," an optimistic Granderson told the Yes Network after being removed from the game.
The team was already looking for a backup outfielder. Now, after Granderson was hit on the right hand by Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ on Sunday, Yankees manager Joe Giradi needs a fill-in for what could be up to 10 weeks.
Yankees opening day is April 1, so Giradi has plenty of time to decide who to bring north.
Possibilities to fill Granderson's spot include two outfielders with significant major league experience: non-roster invitees Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera. Both are 34 years old and neither has the power to replace Granderson's production numbers.
Another option could be fellow non-roster invitee Ronnie Mustelier, who replaced Granderson in left field on Sunday. In two minor league seasons with the Yankees, the 28-year-old Cuban hit .324 with an .875 OPS. Considered a late bloomer, Mustelier has impressed scouts with his bat.
The Yankees only have three non-regular outfielders on the team's 40-man roster - Zoilo Almonte, Ramon Flores, and Melky Mesa. All three, however, were projected to start the season in the minors.
Almonte, 23, spent last season at Double-A Trenton, where he hit 21 home runs and stole 15 bases while batting .277 with an .808 OPS. Flores, 20, spent most of last season with the Yankees' High-A Tampa club, where he hit .303. Mesa, who split time between Double-A and Triple-A, has power and speed; however, he's committed to playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, which will limit the amount of time he'll be able to play in front Giradi.
Also invited to spring training are the Yankees' top three outfield prospects: Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and Tyler Austin. All three were projected to start the season in Trenton but may have a chance to win a spot on the big league club with an impressive spring.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.