Yasmani Grandal saw a team heading places when he signed with the Chicago White Sox in November.
“Just seeing the direction that the program is going in and talking to them a little bit about what their future plans are and what their goals were, it kind of got to me a little bit,” the catcher said during his introductory conference call on Nov. 21.
After seven consecutive losing seasons, the Sox have transformed into a playoff team. Grandal has been impressed with how the Sox are navigating through the stretch run of this pandemic-shortened season.
“They’re doing a great job handling the situation,” Grandal said Thursday. “They’re not looking past anyone. They’re coming in and trying to get the job done. They’ve done a great job so far.”
Grandal was one of the veterans with playoff experience the Sox added in the offseason. Starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez has appreciated the advice from Grandal throughout 2020. Lopez didn’t factor in the decision, but allowed three runs in 5 1/4 u2153 solid innings in Thursday’s win against the Minnesota Twins that clinched the first postseason appearance for the Sox since 2008.
“Sometimes, my mindset for a particular game, for a particular hitter, wasn’t the right one,” Lopez said through an interpreter Saturday. “He’s been helping me to adjust in that aspect of the game, how to deal with different things during the game and how to prepare better for the games, too. It has been a very good and helpful relationship and I’m just glad to have him as my partner here.”
Grandal was the first major free-agent move this past offseason for the Sox. The list also included Saturday’s starter Dallas Keuchel, pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Steve Cishek and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion. Each has played in the playoffs.
“There’s a few guys in that clubhouse who have been around and gotten in the postseason, their personal experiences they’ll be able to share with the players and that’s a matter of them communicating with each other,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said Thursday. “I’m sure guys will be asking them questions or (Grandal) might share what might be helpful at any given moment.”
While several of the key players will be participating in their first postseason, Grandal doesn’t see it as a hurdle.
“A team like this team who plays hard, runs everything out, who can steal, bunt, who can hit the long ball, who can string runs together, who’s pretty much never out of a game, it’s pretty nerve wracking for somebody else,” Grandal said.
The success has come even though injuries have hampered the pitching staff. Keuchel returned Saturday after missing time because of back spasms. The Sox are still without one of their top relievers in Aaron Bummer and starter Carlos Rodon. Bummer threw 20 pitches in a simulated situation before Saturday’s game against the Reds at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
The organization’s pitching depth has shined, be it Dane Dunning in the rotation or Codi Heuer and Matt Foster in the bullpen.
“We have the guys and we have the talent to be able to do it on the pitching side,” Grandal said. “We have a lot of young guys in the pen. We have a lot of young guys who (have) come up and who have done a great job starting-wise. The fact that all those guys are getting time here and understanding what they need to do to help us out to be successful, it’s great for us. It’s great moving forward.”
The next step is the playoffs. Grandal has played in each of the last five postseasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers (2015-18) and Milwaukee Brewers (2019).
“I’ve been there a few times,” Grandal said. "It’s a matter of who’s getting hot, and it’s a matter of staying within yourself, it’s a matter of playing the game that you know you can play and not trying to do too much.”
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