During his first game back with the White Sox in more than a month, Yasmani Grandal was chatting with plate umpire Dan Bellino on Friday night.
“I just kept telling him, ‘I’m hoping to get out of this game healthy. That’s all I’m looking for,’ ” Grandal said before Saturday’s doubleheader against the Guardians.
It’s a familiar refrain, not just for Grandal but many of his Sox teammates.
Injuries have dented the Sox lineup all season as they try to find traction in the AL Central.
Grandal made it through Friday night’s game, an 8-2 Sox loss, unscathed and reported no major issues a day later.
“Feeling good today,” he said. “A little achy here and there, but that’s just things that are going to happen.”
Especially for someone who had two surgeries on his right knee after tearing a tendon last July and then going on the IL last month with lower back spasms.
Back with the team after a rehab stint split between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, Grandal felt an understandable adrenaline rush.
“[Friday] for me was exciting,” he said. “In the fourth inning, I was still shaking. I was just way too hyped.”
Manager Tony La Russa wasn’t quite that excited, but he was glad to have another impact bat available.
“It’s good to have him back,” La Russa said. “We need his production and what he brings to the club.”
They got some of that production in the fourth inning of the opener, when Grandal punched a two-out RBI single to break a scoreless tie. That hit came against Guardians right-hander Triston McKenzie and was a welcome development for a team that is slashing .249/.303/.357 against righties vs. .285/.342/.449 against lefties through Friday.
Grandal, a switch-hitter, gives La Russa another option to improve those numbers against righties while waiting to see who, if anyone, general manager Rick Hahn adds by the trade deadline.
Grandal spent a good chunk of his nine-game rehab assignment getting his swing back.
“In Birmingham, pretty much hit lefty the whole time,” he said. “And then all of a sudden in Triple-A, the team we were playing had 18 lefties so I hit righty the whole time there.”
Grandal was exaggerating, but not a lot. Lehigh Valley, the opponent he was referring to, lists 13 lefties on its roster (including former Sox Jace Fry).
In any case, Grandal said, “the focus was to end the rehab assignment and not regressing or anything.”
Even before he was sidelined with his latest injury, Grandal was scuffling at the plate this season with a .181/.288/.232 slash line.
But he’s hoping all those health issues are behind him and he can get back to being the hitter the Sox need him to be.
“It’s crazy because at the beginning of the year it was all about the knee I had surgery on and trying to take care of that,” Grandal said. “But as soon as the back went, all of a sudden it was like nothing happened to the knee. Like squatting, like nothing [wrong]. ... So the knee’s good. Now it’s just taking care of the other side of the body.”
Keeping Grandal healthy and in the lineup is a priority for La Russa. How exactly that will work going forward remains to be seen.
The fact that the Sox kept Seby Zavala as a third catcher when they activated Grandal suggests Grandal won’t be behind the plate a lot as he ramps back up.
But, he said, “I’m planning on hopefully catching as much as I can because I’ve got to get back in a rhythm and I only had like three games behind the plate in Triple-A. Everything else was either DH or first base.”
Grandal was at DH for Saturday’s opener, and La Russa is not looking too far ahead on where he’ll play.
“You just watch, see how he catches,” La Russa said. “I thought he moved around well, took some tough at-bats [Friday]. He was serious about the time he spent in Charlotte.”