Dodgers' catcher Yasmani Grandal switches up approach to stay ahead

Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal has to stay ahead of the game by constantly changing

For Yasmani Grandal, baseball is all about the small adjustments you make to stay ahead of the league.

As the Dodgers' catcher, he sees it with the batters who parade in front of him almost every day. Working with six different pitchers during a 7-6 victory over Arizona on Wednesday night, Grandal had to change how he called the game to match each hurler’s strengths and weaknesses, all the while accounting for the particular foibles of each individual hitter.

It’s a delicate balance, one that, despite his best efforts, sometimes fails. The Diamondbacks put up six runs Wednesday, including a pair of home runs from Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock.

Pollock’s four-bagger came in the top of the ninth, tying the game. Grandal can explain the exact intent and purpose of the pitch that Pollock launched into the left-field bleachers, can show how it played to Dodger closer Kenley Jansen’s strengths and Pollock’s weaknesses. But by missing just a fraction, Jansen put the ball where Pollock could adjust and send the game to the brink of extra innings.

“That’s just something you got to do as a player, as a catcher, as a pitcher,” Grandal said. “Just adjust to the league, over and over. It was a fastball that didn’t cut … and that’s kinda his sweet spot right there. Not too many guys on that team miss that pitch.”

Part of the problem might be rust; Grandal and the bullpen have not had to work too closely as of late, as the Dodgers’ starters went on a streak of six straight quality starts. But Grandal said it was a nice change of pace to see the bullpen come to the rescue this time, relieving beleaguered starter Brett Anderson after five innings.

“They did a really good job to get us out of that inning with [Joel] Peralta on second and [Mike] Ahmed on third, one out,” Grandal said. “They came back. Yimi [Garcia] did a great job … J.P. [Howell] did a great job. I even think Kenley did a great job after giving up that home run, coming back and settling down.”

When it comes to outsmarting hitters, Grandal said it all comes down to studying trends and making adjustments to exploit a batter’s weak spots, something he thinks the bullpen did a decent job of Wednesday, Pollock’s homer aside.

On the flip side, Grandal has had to make some adjustments of his own as a hitter after a slow start in June.

Coming back from a concussion at the end of May, Grandal’s offensive production suffered from his time off. His average in May (.375) dropped more than 100 points to .241, and he managed just one extra base hit and no RBIs after putting up eight and 18, respectively, in May.

Recently, however, his bat has shown signs of life, as he collected three hits in the Arizona series, including a home run Wednesday, and also drew a pair of walks while striking out just once. His three-game hit streak is the longest he has had since May 2-5.

Again, Grandal credited the recent swings in production to adjustments that pitchers made to combat his May success, and his subsequent changes in response.

“I feel fine. Hitting-wise, there were a few tweaks here and there,” he said. “I just wasn’t feeling it. That was just the result of not being able to swing for a whole week. … It was just a matter of time. We’re 60 games into the season, and I’ve changed the way I hit. And I’m hitting pitches I wasn’t hitting before, so now the league is adjusting you, and you have to adjust to the league again.”

After a day off, Grandal and the Dodgers head to San Diego to face his former team of three years. And while he said there will be no special meaning to the matchup, the third series between the two squads this year, he assuredly will have to make some adjustments.

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