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Sox wait on Grandal, look at potential backup catching plans

/ by Vinnie Duber
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
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MINNEAPOLIS — The Chicago White Sox will wait until Tuesday to know more about Yasmani Grandal's strained left calf.

But things weren't too cheery after Monday night's 8-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins, in which the team lost its catcher on a check swing in the sixth inning, Grandal requiring help to get off the field after falling to the ground and staying there for a while in obvious pain.

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"Everybody is really concerned about him. He’s on crutches in there," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. "Just really uncertain what the diagnosis really is going to be. Try to be patient and wait and see.

"Hope for the best, it’s all I can tell you right now."

But hoping for the best also comes with preparing for the worst, and the White Sox sounded Monday night like they suffered another significant blow.

"We have to keep doing what we're doing," White Sox pitcher Dylan Cease said. "It's not like we're in the clubhouse before the game throwing a pity party or anything. We're preparing, and we're going out and trying to meet the challenge.

"With this, obviously not ideal, but we're not sitting here feeling bad for ourselves and we're not sitting here feeling any less confident. It just means that we all have to step up a little bit more."

 

It's been a season full of significant injuries so far, yet the White Sox have stayed atop the American League Central standings.

First it was Eloy Jiménez, then Luis Robert, then Nick Madrigal. Injured-list stays for Michael Kopech, Tim Anderson, Adam Eaton, Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall, Garrett Crochet and a couple for Adam Engel have been peppered in there, as well. And José Abreu, Yoán Moncada and, to this point, Grandal have all played through plenty of various bumps, bruises and soreness in the season's first three-plus months.

The severity of this latest one to Grandal is still unknown at the moment, but if he lands on the injured list for any significant amount of time, the White Sox will face another key cog yanked out of the middle of their lineup. Grandal was talked about as a potential All Star in the middle of an impressive offensive season, flashing his on-base skills and a more recent power burst — not to mention his work with the pitching staff as the team's No. 1 catcher.

"He's very important, obviously, what he's able to do offensively and defensively," Cease said. "We've been battling injuries all year, so I think we're going to just keep moving forward and just hope he gets back as soon as possible."

So what do the White Sox do in the event that Grandal would have to go on the shelf?

The White Sox are most likely to turn to Seby Zavala, rather than Yermín Mercedes, who was sent down to Triple-A Charlotte on Friday in an effort to restart a bat that cooled off after a white-hot start. Zavala packs far less offensive potential compared to Mercedes, but La Russa brought up Zavala's greater dependability behind the plate.

"(Zavala) was in Detroit in case Yas couldn’t make it today," La Russa said, referencing Grandal's back-to-back missed games with a calf issue over the weekend. "So my guess is Zavala will be back tomorrow.

"Talent-wise, tool-wise, Yermín has the tools to be an outstanding catcher. He’s got really good hands. He’s got one of the best throwing arms for accuracy you want to see, Johnny Bench-like. But he just lacks the experience of preparing the game plan and thinking through it. He needs to do that more.

"It seems like Zavala has a well earned reputation for handling pitching. That’s what we need. We need the right pitches called. I think it would be to his and the team’s benefit for him to get that catching experience because he’s a very talented guy."

Being forced to trade Grandal and his north-of-.800 OPS for Zavala, who's rarely put up overly impressive offensive numbers in his six seasons in the minor leagues, is obviously not the most appealing thing in the world for a championship-chasing club. No matter how lengthy a Grandal absence, Zack Collins becomes the center of attention behind the plate — not to mention at it.

 

The White Sox could wake up in a world where they are down their starting left fielder, starting center fielder, starting second baseman and starting catcher, with their starting first baseman and starting third baseman playing through somewhat typical but not unimpactful maladies. That's a whole lot of injuries. And a whole lot of different areas for general manager Rick Hahn to consider as the trade deadline nears.

Meanwhile, the first-place White Sox will keep on keeping on, however impossible that might continue to seem.

"Those are the kind of things that you can't control in the game, the injuries," Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "I'm not going to lie. Sometimes it's difficult. It's hard to see those kind of things happen almost every night.

"If somebody goes down, we know that somebody else is going to step up, and that's our mentality, that's our mindset. Who is the next man up?

"We have a good team. We want to win. We don't want to lose. It's not really fun to lose. ... Just try to keep our focus on the things that we can control and try to keep moving forward, no matter what."

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