With outfielder Curtis Granderson sidelined 10 weeks with a fractured forearm, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman says the team will focus on in-house options to replace the All-Star until his expected return in early May.
"We will focus on what we have at this time," Cashman told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com.
Last season's left fielder, Brett Gardner, who missed most of the season with an elbow injury, will slide to center field, leaving left field as an open battle in spring training. Looking to win the starting job in Granderson's absence will be veterans Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz, as well as rising prospect Zoilo Almonte and the speedy Melky Mesa, who is prepared to step up if given the opportunity.
"If they need me at some point, I'm going to be here," Mesa said. "I just try to work hard. I can't control the results, I'll just be here."
Mesa is the quickest of the outfield candidates and the best defender of the bunch. However, he only has two at-bats in the Majors, recording one hit last September with the Yankees.
This is an opportunity for all four candidates to be excited about, but the veteran Diaz understands the Yankees are better off when Granderson is healthy.
"If they choose to give me that job, of course I'd love it," Diaz said. "I'd love the opportunity, but there's 43 home runs we need back soon. That's my first thought. My son and I prayed for Grandy last night. We need him back."
Though these are the four most likely candidates to win the starting job on Opening Day, the darkhorse in the race is 28 year-old Ronnier Mustelier, who Girardi mentioned as a player who will get his shot. Mustelier has shown he can hit in the minors, but is still transitioning to playing the outfield as a converted infielder.
Granderson fractured his forearm after being hit by a pitch in his first at-bat of the spring against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday. He is expected to return in the first week of May, missing roughly five weeks of the regular season.