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Yankees In Pain

TAMPA, Fla. — Curtis Granderson jogged to first base after being hit on his right forearm as if it were a minor annoyance. Back at the ballpark in a brace a couple of hours later, it was clear the New York Yankees had a pretty big power problem on their hands.

In his first at-bat of spring training, the slugger broke his arm when he was hit by a pitch from Toronto’s J.A. Happ in the bottom of the first inning yesterday, and is expected to be out until the first week of May.

“Grandy is not a bat you say is easy to replace, but we’re going to have to find a way,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “No one is going to feel sorry for you.”

The Yankees, who were beat 2-0 by a Blue Jays’ split squad, first called it a bruise but X-rays revealed the break.

“Five pitches in we got a little setback,” Granderson said. “Now we rest, recovery, get it back, and get ready to play whenever that day comes.”

The team said Granderson could be out 10 weeks, which means he’ll miss about a month of the regular season.

“Mentally, you understand this is part of it, but at the same time now there’s not much I can do about it except do the best things I can to not make it worse,” Granderson said. “Keep myself ready to go.”

It’s a major blow for the Yankees, who are already without Alex Rodriguez until at least the All-Star break. The Yankees also lost Nick Swisher to free agency.

Granderson led New York with 43 homers last season. The Yankees hit 245 homers last year and had five players with at least 20. This year they could open the season with just two players, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, who topped 20.

Granderson was examined near first base before leaving the game.

“It didn’t sound good,” said Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who was in the on-deck circle when Granderson got hit.

The Yankees were planning to experiment during exhibition games to see if they would move Granderson from center to left, with Brett Gardner going from left to center. That potential alignment is on hold.

Girardi said that Gardner will likely start the season in center.

Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera, in the competition for the fourth outfielder spot, could see increased playing time.

“We’ll be forced to take a look at a short-term option,” Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said. “Obviously, we’ll being get Curtis back. It’s very early. We’re still evaluating what we actually have in camp. The first month there will be a vacancy that we need to fill. Is that internal, external, I couldn’t even tell you.”

Cashman said he is not in favor of giving infielder Eduardo Nunez a look in left field.

Jeter 2 Weeks Away
From Returning

TAMPA, Fla. — Yankees captain Derek Jeter is about two weeks away from playing in a game for the first time since breaking his ankle last fall.

New York general manager Brian Cashman said yesterday that the shortstop should be ready to play in spring training games around March 10.

“Physically, he’s capable of doing everything,” Cashman said. “We’re being very cautious.”

Jeter practiced on-field running and agility drills for the second straight day Sunday.

He expects to be ready for opening day against Boston on April 1. The 38-year-old broke his left ankle lunging for a grounder in the AL championship series opener against Detroit on Oct. 13 and had surgery a week later.

“When I first got here, I was a couple weeks behind what everyone was doing anyway, so on that schedule, I don’t see any reason why not,” Jeter said.

Jeter also continued hitting and fielding grounders before the Yankees’ second exhibition game.

Cashman said the timetable for the possible return of third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who had hip surgery, is still in July. A-Rod is doing rehab work in New York.

“We’re told that he’s going to be back at the All-Star break, and that’s what we believe,” Cashman said. “His rehab is going well.”