Sox Reporter

Grandal makes spring debut as knee recovery continues

Sox Reporter

For the first time during the Cactus League schedule, the White Sox got their catcher into a game.

They've been playing these exhibition contests since the final day of February, and two weeks in, Yasmani Grandal made his spring debut.

He's been working his way back from a twisted knee suffered during a running drill, and Saturday, he was in the White Sox lineup as the designated hitter, going 0-for-2 with a walk.

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"I stepped wrong on it and felt something right away," he said. "We didn't know what it was, and there was some sort of inflammation in there. Right now it feels 10 times better than it did back then. Strength is coming back. I'm finally able to walk normal.

"I've felt things in my knees in the past. It's one of those things where as you go on, it just goes away, but it never swells up. The fact that when I saw it, it was swollen, kind of raised some eyebrows there — 'What's going on that all of a sudden it can get this way?' MRI seems fine. There was no structural damage or anything like that."

Grandal's a veteran, lauded as one of the best catchers in baseball, so there shouldn't be too much concern about his ability to get ready for Opening Day on April 1. But still, he's focused on making sure he gets enough practice in to feel comfortable for the start of the regular season.

 

"I'm definitely not going to rush into things," he said. "I'm hoping I get the amount of ABs I need to feel comfortable. Right now, repetition behind the plate is probably No. 1. I could (not) care less if I start off the season hitting or not. I know the bat is going to come through at some point, and once that happens, then it's a done deal.

"Being able to hopefully get more repetitions behind the plate, catching-wise, where I'm blocking and I'm throwing and I'm moving around and calling the game and seeing how the game is going along, I think that's No. 1, being able to start slowing down the game more and more and more."

As for when Grandal will get into a game as a catcher, that remains a mystery. But he's been increasing his catching workload behind the scenes, helping him not just get back to normal following his early spring injury but to get working toward ready for when the games start counting in two and a half weeks.

Grandal's confidence in his bat is a positive sign following what he considered a disappointing season, offensively, in his first year in a White Sox uniform in 2020. He hit just .230 and saw his OPS drop by .075 points from where it was at the end of a career year with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019. But he still managed to lead the White Sox in walks, hit a few clutch home runs — including two in the team's brief postseason stay, one off new teammate Liam Hendriks — and earn Gold Glove finalist status with his defensive work.

He's obviously been working on setting up a better 2021 for weeks now, even if the injury slowed him down. The goal now becomes making sure that work gets done in what's become a limited amount of time.

If it does, a White Sox lineup that was potent in 2020 will be even more so with an improved Grandal.

"It means a lot, nice to be out there competing," he said. "I don't deal too good with (these types of) situations, especially when I'm hurt. The fact that I was able to go out and have a regular day and just compete, period, is definitely a good thing for me."

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