Granderson making the grade in Erie

Watch out Alex - Curtis is coming quickly

Curtis Granderson is schooling Eastern League pitchers, and that should come as no surprise. The son of two educators and a recent graduate of the University of Illinois Chicago, he is planning for a Master's Degree in Educational Administration. But with the numbers he's putting up in Double-A Erie, the Tigers 3rd round pick in the 2002 draft may soon be delaying academia to pursue tenure in Comerica Park. (FREE PREVIEW OF PREMIUM CONTENT)

"I have little doubt that he'll play in the big leagues," said Erie hitting coach Pete Incaviglia, "and it wouldn't surprise me if he gets a shot as early as this September. It's not my call, but I think he could handle it."

Granderson, rated by Baseball America as the number-eight prospect in the Detroit organization, can certainly handle the bat. Currently hitting .304-16-74, the 23-year-old product of Lynwood, Illinois recently homered in five consecutive games while reaching base 17 times in 22 plate appearances.

"I'm swinging the bat well," said Granderson, "but I never feel that I should be satisfied. There's always room for improvement, and I want to get more disciplined and consistent. Barbaro Garbey, my hitting coach at Oneonta, said that my swing reminded him of Terrence Long's, but I have a lot of work to do to earn a comparison to a major leaguer.

Granderson is humble in his self-assessment, but Incaviglia recognizes that he has what it takes to make the grade.

"Curtis is a special athlete," Incaviglia said. "You can tell him to make an adjustment, and he'll do it right away. A lot of guys can't do that. We had him move his hands, and it really improved his timing. He's got a great aptitude and hunger, and his offensive capabilities are only going to get better."

Granderson also plays strong defense, and it took a highlight-reel catch in Portland to slow down his offensive explosion. Diving headlong into the centerfield fence to rob the Sea Dogs Brett Roneberg, he escaped serious injury but was still knocked out of the lineup for a few games. Coming off a five-hit performance, it may have been the only way to stop his onslaught of line drives.

Asked how he would handle a promotion to the big leagues, Granderson takes the same studious approach he brings to the classroom and batters box.

"Once you step onto the field it's the same game," he explains. "Who you're facing is different, but it's still sixty-feet-six-inches and the bases are the same distance apart. When they feel I'm ready I'll go up there with the same approach I have now. I'm not the kind of standout who will lead the team in home runs or stolen bases, but I think I do a lot of things pretty well."

Curtis Granderson does do a lot of things well on the baseball field. He's also a class-act off it, which is something fans in Detroit will soon be learning. He's already taught Eastern League pitchers a thing or two.

David Laurila is a sportswriter residing in Boston. He can be reached at DLaurila@aol.com.

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