Center fielder Curtis Granderson returned to the Yankees lineup Friday for the first time since May 1, having missed 24 games with a Grade 2 strain of the left groin. In order to make room for Granderson on the 25-man roster, the Yankees designated Randy Winn for assignment.
Granderson completed a five-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton Thursday night, in which he played three games in center and two as a DH, batting .250 (4-for-16) with two RBIs.
"I feel good," said Granderson, who was hitting .225 with two HRs and seven RBIs in the first 23 games of the season before pulling up while rounding second base in the sixth inning of a game against the White Sox. "Stopping, starting, changing direction all felt good. The real test is going to be the length of the games, being out there for three and maybe four hours. Minor league games are so quick and of course the games up here are going to be a lot longer."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi penciled Granderson into the No. 2 spot in the lineup for Friday night's game against the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium, a spot he had not hit in all year but is now up for grabs with the wrist injury to Nick Johnson that required surgery.
"He is a guy we're going to see there a lot, especially against right-handers," Girardi said of Granderson. In Johnson's absence, Girardi has been using Brett Gardner in the lineup spot occupied last year by Johnny Damon, but over the last six games, Gardner has slumped (3-for-24). Granderson's return prompted Girardi not only to drop Gardner to seventh in the order but to shift him back to left field, where he started the season.
"I do like Gardy near the bottom of the order because he can create a run all by himself," Girardi said.
Granderson sure looked fine against the Tribe, covering center field with ease. He also walked in the third, hit a sharp double into right-center in the seventh and was hit by a pitch in the eighth of the Yankees' 8-2 win.
Winn, signed to a one-year free-agent deal in February, never seemed comfortable in a part-time role with the Yankees after having been an everyday player for most of his 13 big-league seasons. After having played at least 149 games in each of his last eight seasons, Winn got into just 29 games as a Yankee, batting .213 with a homer and eight RBIs in 61 at-bats.
"I don't think that's an excuse," Winn, 35, said of his limited playing time. "I played terrible and that's the bottom line. With Curtis coming back, a move had to be made, and it fits. One outfielder coming in, one outfielder going out."
In deciding to cut Winn, the Yankees chose to retain Kevin Russo, a 25-year-old infielder who has filled in well in left field after an ankle injury to Marcus Thames last week. Said Girardi: "It's the worst part of my job, telling a guy you're going to designate him, especially a veteran who's done a lot in the game like Randy Winn. It's hard, but we like the versatility Russo gives us. It was a tough call, but we went with the versatility."
Posada, out with a broken right foot, was on the field with the team before Friday night's game and was expected to meet with team physician Christopher Ahmad. Aceves also got a second epidural for his ailing back.