Zack Greinke on Yasmani Grandal: ‘I couldn’t draw up a better catcher’

Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal takes part in a spring training practice session March 3 in Phoenix.

Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal takes part in a spring training practice session March 3 in Phoenix.

(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

It’s one thing to replace a popular player, and something else when he’s still on the team, highly respected by teammates, still sharing your catching position and has a close personal and professional relationship with the best pitcher on the team, if not the planet.

Yasmani Grandal was not the most popular catcher on the Padres last season. He did not catch on days Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy started. He threw out only six of 56 basestealers last year, worst for any catcher who appeared in at least 60 games.

He came to the Dodgers in the off-season trade for Matt Kemp, seemingly determined to reinvent his relationships with the pitching staff. Catcher A.J. Ellis is renowned for his work ethic and close partnerships with the staff – Clayton Kershaw in particular -- and Grandal appears to have been taking notes.

And it’s apparently working. After Zack Greinke, who was also thought to prefer pitching to Ellis, threw six strong innings Tuesday with Grandal behind the plate, he could hardly stop praising the catcher.

“He’s been unbelievable back there,” Greinke said. “His catching is better than advertised, and working with me individually, he’s been as good as you could expect. I don’t think, from what I’ve seen so far, you could ever have expected anything more.


“He’s done everything. His hands are great. He’s blocked everything I’ve thrown. People stole on him last year, but he’s had some really good throws in games I’ve thrown in spring training. And then his game calling’s been good.

“I couldn’t draw up a better catcher at the moment.”

That’s high praise, particularly from someone who doesn’t normally enjoy being effusive in his praise.

But when most of the regulars left camp a day early to head back to Los Angeles, Grandal remained back in Arizona specifically to catcher Greinke in a minor-league game.

Maybe that’s something he doesn’t do a year ago with the Padres. Right now, though, he is getting it right. Almost like it was drawn up.