Notes: Granderson makes contact
Adjustments in batter's box show early improvement
LAKELAND, Fla. -- All eyes were on Gary Sheffield during his first Tigers workout. But Jim Leyland's eyes weren't on his new slugger all the time.
One group behind Sheffield was Curtis Granderson, whose work to cut down on strikeouts is arguably hitting coach Lloyd McClendon's top task this spring. He wasn't going to have any swings and misses off batting practice pitches from a coach, but he apparently had ample opportunity to make an impression.
"I thought Granderson was the star of the day," Leyland said. "He was hitting line drive after line drive all over the field. I don't know if Mac can bottle that or not, but if he can bottle that, he'll be fine. That was a thing of beauty. He was hitting from line to line."
When Granderson is at his best, he's hitting the ball to all fields. More than half of the left-handed hitter's doubles at Comerica Park went down the left-field line, and his home runs were evenly split between left and right fields.
What encouraged Granderson about the session was feeling out his simplified swing. With help from McClendon, Granderson is trying to cut unnecessary movement out of his swing, leaving a quicker motion through the strike zone and a better chance for solid contact.
"Today it felt good," Granderson said. "From what we're trying to work on, it's just getting from Point A to Point B with little movement, less complicated."
Granderson's swing last year, he said, varied from a little movement to a lot. Some of the added movement stemmed from trying to work on his swing, adding timing mechanisms. He'll still have some of that for timing's sake, but not a lot.
Batting practice, he said, is the first step to seeing how it feels and how it works.
"You can gauge a good amount off of it," he said, "because BP is still a good indicator of how you feel. Usually, if you feel good in BP, that carries over into a game -- not always, but the majority of the time. Once you start to see more pitches, you get a little movement, a little change of speed, and then you see how you react."
Granderson mentioned during the winter caravan last month that he was working on staying close to the plate. He's still closer than he was last year, he said, but that's not a primary focus. The simplified swing has come since then.
He had a chance to watch Sheffield briefly once his group was rotating practice fields, waiting for Sheffield's group ahead of them to finish up.
"The one thing I have to make sure of is to watch and not get frustrated," Granderson said. "I had that early on in my career, where I would always be in power [hitting] groups for some reason, and I had to make sure I kept [to the basics]. If they hit 10 home runs and I hit one, it's not a failed round. I still have to get my work done."
Who's on first: With full-squad workouts under way, Marcus Thames has some long days ahead of him. On Wednesday, after spending the morning working with his fellow outfielders and coach Andy Van Slyke on fundamental drills, he headed back out to the practice fields for extra work at first base with infield coach Rafael Belliard and Lou Whitaker.
Thames spent part of his offseason working out at Mississippi State University, near his home, with some Minor League players. He'd have somebody hit ground balls to him to get him a head start.
Still, he said, "It's all brand new. Ground balls, I just have to stay down. It's different. I've never done it. I'm going to work hard at it, see if I can learn. I know it's not going to be easy for me, but I'm an athlete. If I can get over there and work at it, I'll be OK."
At least he now has a worn-in glove for it. After watching Thames take ground balls, Sean Casey gave him his backup glove.
"There's nothing more frustrating," Casey said, "than trying to learn a position with a brand new glove. New gloves don't catch. Balls bounce out of your glove and it messes with your head a little bit. So I got him a glove to work with and help him feel comfortable over there with. I'd hope somebody would help me out, too, if I was trying to learn a new position."
Said Thames: "Everybody's helping out. That's what I like about it. I'm not going over there just lost."
Ready and accounted for: Nearly all Tigers players had reported to camp by Wednesday morning, the actual reporting time contrary to the well-known reporting day. The only missing position player Wednesday was shortstop Tony Giarratano, whom Leyland said was having his shoulder checked out.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.