‘Yaz has no fear back there’: How Yasmani Grandal finds a balance between being aggressive in framing pitches for Chicago White Sox — and avoiding catcher’s interference

‘Yaz has no fear back there’: How Yasmani Grandal finds a balance between being aggressive in framing pitches for Chicago White Sox — and avoiding catcher’s interference
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LaMond Pope, Chicago Tribune
·5 min read
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Chicago White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal has noticed something unusual during the first few weeks of the 2021 season.

“There’s been a lot of catcher’s interference in the past month, more than I can remember,” Grandal said during a conference call Friday. “And it’s around the league. I don’t know if it’s a matter of us as a whole group, a major-league group of catchers who are trying to do the same thing and hitters adapting to it and maybe taking bad swings and getting us?

“But it’s definitely been a plague that has gone through the whole major leagues.”

Grandal has been called for catcher’s interference three times this season, including twice Tuesday in a 8-5 victory against the Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

“I usually get one a year,” Grandal said. “Having to change my catching stance, it’s been definitely a work in progress having to figure out and understand exactly how far out I can get.”

Grandal spent a portion of spring training recovering from right knee inflammation. He has continued to catch with his right knee on the ground as he’s progressing and has worked his traditional stance into the mix.

“I’ve been trying it out,” he said. “But until I feel like I’m 100% ready to get back to my regular stance, it’s probably going to be down in a one-knee stance for a while. I don’t think there have been too many challenges. I’ve actually liked it just because it’s challenged me to work on a whole new world I didn’t know about.

“I like to study the game and I use myself as a guinea pig at times to do different things in the offseason. So the fact I’m able to do this ... was able to change so quick, it’s always good. It’s going to be one of those things where I can just add it to what I can do and when I can get back to my regular knee stance, then I’ll just make it a hybrid. I’ll become a hybrid of both and hopefully that’ll help me out to be even better.”

The one-knee stance has its benefits, Grandal said.

“It’s helped me out blocking a lot, it doesn’t take a toll on your body as much as the other stance would,” he said. “That’s why the idea of having a hybrid and maybe going 50-50 with it, that might be a good idea.”

Grandal was a finalist for the American League Gold Glove for catchers in 2020, along with former Sox teammate James McCann and the award winner, Roberto Pérez of the Cleveland Indians.

He’s known for his pitch-framing skills.

“Yaz has no fear back there,” Sox manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday.

Grandal is working to find a balance between being aggressive framing pitches and avoiding catcher’s interference.

“The good thing for us is that in spring training, we went through our whole science lab and started to figure it out what our dynamic reach was and how we were able to receive the ball better,” Grandal said. “So we’ll have to go back and look at the numbers and see how far back I can go in order to still be within reach of still being able to be elite at framing. It’s a work in progress, but I’m not too worried about it.”

Grandal also homered Tuesday, his second of the season. Through Friday, he was slashing .140/.302/.326 with nine RBIs and 10 walks in 13 games.

“The good thing is the knee’s getting better,” Grandal said. “We’re definitely seeing some significant changes throughout the season. We’re headed in the right direction, and it’s just a matter now of more playing time. I think we’ll start playing a little bit more now.

“Instead of two days in a row now I think I’m allowed three or four days, which is going to allow for those ABs to come along. It’s going to be one of those things where we’ll have to keep monitoring it and see where we’re at.”

He likes the early direction of the pitching staff. The Sox entered Saturday fourth in the AL with a 3.86 ERA. The starters have a 3.35 ERA, which is tops in the AL.

“We have a good pitching staff, whether it’s starters or relievers,” Grandal said. “We still have a lot of room to grow. It’s early in the season. We don’t really look at numbers this early. We want to be No. 1, not only in the American League but throughout baseball.

“We’ll continue to work toward that. That’s the main goal, and we’ll see where we’re at down the road.”

One of those starters, Lance Lynn, anticipates he’ll be back on the mound Friday against the Cleveland Indians at Guaranteed Rate Field. Lynn is on the 10-day injured list with a strained right trapezius, a move retroactive to April 17.

“It popped up (April 15) against Cleveland,” Lynn said Saturday. “It went into the next bullpen session, so kind of felt the same sensation, and we just wanted to make sure we got it all out of there before we got back on the mound.”

Lynn said he’s “actually feeling pretty good.”

“With the off days and the way everything is shaped up, we are going to give it a couple of extra days to make sure we are in a good spot,” he said.