Yasmani Grandal expects to bounce back with Dodgers

Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal says knee injury is healed

If the Dodgers win the World Series this year, Yasmani Grandal might come to be regarded as a hero in Los Angeles. For now, he is the catcher who was acquired in exchange for one of the team's most popular players.

Grandal doesn't seem to mind.

"No pressure at all," he said Saturday before he was introduced to the 22,000-plus people who attended the team's annual FanFest at Dodger Stadium.

Of the trades the Dodgers made this off-season, none were as polarizing as the deal that sent Matt Kemp and backup catcher Tim Federowicz to the San Diego Padres for Grandal, 26, and two pitching prospects.

"I think both teams got what they wanted," Grandal said. "The Dodgers were looking for a catcher. The Padres were looking for a big-time bat. That's what Kemp brought to the table and that's what I brought to the table."

Grandal is expected to be the Dodgers' primary catcher, but the trade nonetheless raised eyebrows, in part because of his recent history.

The Cuban-born switch-hitter was an All-American at the University of Miami who was selected 12th overall in the 2010 draft by the Cincinnati Reds. He broke into the major leagues with the Padres in 2012, batting .297 with eight home runs and 36 runs batted in in 60 games.

After that season, however, Grandal was suspended for testing positive for an elevated level of testosterone. Grandal was later linked to Biogenesis of America, the Miami health clinic that allegedly provided performance-enhancing drugs to several major league players, including Alex Rodriguez.

Grandal served a 50-game suspension in 2013 and suffered a season-ending knee injury only a month after his return.

Last year, he played in 128 games and hit 15 home runs, but batted only .225.

Grandal declined to offer any details of his drug use.

"The way I see it, we make mistakes and we learn from them," he said.

Grandal said he believes he's now a better player than he was before his suspension. He said his batting average was as low as it was last season because his surgically repaired right knee wasn't at full strength.

"You take away a knee injury and I probably would have posted right around a .280, .290 batting average, played every single game and hit 15-plus home runs," he said.

Grandal said his knee particularly limited him when hitting from the right side. He batted .162 right-handed, compared to .241 left-handed. All 15 of his home runs were hit from the left side.

Grandal said he is confident his knee is now healed, pointing to how he felt while playing in the Dominican Republic's winter league.

"It just feels like I'm back at it again, like it was before," he said.

Management is encouraged not only by his improved health, but also because of how he rates in some often-overlooked statistical categories. Grandal's walk rate of 13.1% ranked fourth among major league catchers last season. He is also a highly rated pitch framer, meaning that as a catcher, he has shown an ability to make balls appear as strikes to umpires.

Shortly after his trade to the Dodgers, Grandal said he met in Los Angeles with Manager Don Mattingly and A.J. Ellis, the team's No. 1 catcher for the last three seasons.

Grandal said he hasn't been told how playing time will be divided between him and Ellis, but insisted he would accept the role he is assigned.

"A.J. couldn't put it any better: He said, 'Whatever it takes to win,' " Grandal said. "If that day, A.J. is the man for the job behind the plate and we are going to get a win with A.J. behind the plate, that's going to be him. At the end of the day, if we get a ring, that's going to be a team win and we all have rings. Twenty years from now, I get to show that ring off and say, 'Hey, I won a World Series.' "

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
83°