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04/19/2008 12:13 AM ET
Granderson's rehab coming along
Outfielder could be back in Tigers lineup early next week
Curtis Granderson will play for Triple-A Toledo on Saturday and Sunday. (Al Behrman/AP)

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COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. -- Curtis Granderson felt pleased with the first game of his Minor League rehab assignment, though he admitted he's not ready for the Majors.

The Tigers star outfielder and leadoff hitter played for Class A West Michigan on Friday night at Fifth Third Ballpark. Starting in center field and leading off, he went 2-for-4 with an infield single, a triple and a fine running catch in the Whitecaps' 3-0 loss.

Granderson said some aspects of his game still need tuning. He swung late, as expected, on some fastballs in his early at-bats. He also said he felt slow on the basepaths and in the field, though the results showed otherwise.

But for Granderson, Friday's game was about gauging the pain in his injured right hand during game situations.

"Today was a day to see: Does it hurt?" Granderson said. "And, for the most part, it didn't."

However, he did experience a mild pain on a check swing in his second at-bat. He grimaced and shook his hand, but he had no trouble finishing the contest.

"That was a big test today. That caused the most pain out of anything today," Granderson said of the at-bat. "I was able to bounce back from that, still take some swings, throw. I didn't have to come out of the game, so I was very happy with those results."

Granderson, who finished 10th in last year's American League Most Valuable Player voting, played in his first game since March 22, when a fastball from Phillies pitcher Travis Blackley fractured a bone below his right middle finger and sent Granderson to the 15-day disabled list.

He will play for Triple-A Toledo on Saturday and Sunday to prevent him from playing solely against Class A competition. Granderson's path from there is unknown at this point.

West Michigan plays at home on Monday night, which could serve as a final tune-up for Granderson before possibly rejoining the team on Tuesday at home against Texas. It's also realistic he could play for the Tigers on Monday night against Toronto.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he would like to see Granderson get 20-25 at-bats in the Minors before returning.

"It's one thing to have enough at-bats to come back, and it's another thing to have enough at-bats to be effective," Leyland said on Friday. "We want him back just like everybody else does, but we don't want him back if he's not ready."

Granderson and the Tigers' medical staff will make the final decision for Monday.

"I would love to be in Toronto on Monday," Granderson said, "but the way I felt today, I don't think I'm ready for Toronto. I would be overmatched. If there are some big improvements, maybe, but if everything feels like it did today, I'll be back [at West Michigan] on Monday."

The Tigers' trainers have insisted Granderson wear a pad sewn into his right batting glove when he hits. In the field, he had the hand bound in white athletic tape.

Despite the bothersome addition, Granderson had an infield single in his first at-bat. He chopped a 2-2 pitch to the right of the mound and easily beat the second baseman's throw.

He flied out to deep left his second time up, but he displayed the dynamic speed missing in the Tigers' lineup in his third at-bat. His blast into the right-center gap one-hopped the wall and last year's Major League triples leader dashed into third standing up.

In his fourth at-bat, he accomplished one of his rehab goals of facing a left-handed pitcher, but he flied out to center.

"I want to get [the rehab] done now, but I know I can't go from one to 100 overnight," Granderson said. "I got some balls in play, got to run the bases. It was good."

Defensively, Granderson didn't get many chances, but had his nice catch in the fifth inning. He showcased his speed again to make a catch in full stride on the warning track in left-center.

Throws, which he said have caused him some discomfort in the last few days, didn't prove a problem, though he didn't have to make any strong tosses to bases.

Whether he returns to the Majors on Monday, Tuesday, or later in the week, Granderson said he wants to help his struggling club by providing a spark.

"I want to be the missing piece to the puzzle," he said.

He took a pleasing, albeit small, step toward that on Friday night.

Scott McNeish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.