On top of the challenges that come with joining a new team, Yasmnai Grandal faces the task of becoming acquainted with a pitching staff that’s grown comfortable with A.J. Ellis behind the plate.
Grandal also arrived in Los Angeles with a bit of a negative reputation given his PED suspension in 2012 and a recent report indicating Tyson Ross and other members of the San Diego Padres’ pitching staff preferred catcher Rene Rivera.
Following Friday’s win, which was the second time in three starts Granal has caught Clayton Kershaw, the 26 year old catcher touched on the Padres situation and his focus moving forward, via ESPN’s Mark Saxon:
I don’t go online and read articles. I think that’s the worst thing you could possibly do,” Grandal said. “It seemed like they all threw to [Rivera] and I was fine with it. Like I’ve been saying, I’m just going to keep doing whatever it is I’m doing and making sure the guys I’m catching, I’m on the same page with. I think last year I did a pretty good job with those new guys that came up to the big leagues.”
Given the friendship between Ellis and Kershaw, many assumed the duo would exclusively work together. However, manager Don Mattingly said that wouldn’t be the case as he doesn’t support a personal catcher system due to the limitations it can cause when setting a lineup.
Kershaw hasn’t demanded Ellis as his catcher and he’s been complimentary of Grandal on multiple occasions. The Dodgers’ ace said Thursday he thought the results with Grandal behind the plate were better than their last game together, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
Better today. We were ahead in the counts more. I didn’t shake him off as much. It’s a learning process.”
While Kershaw may have been more sharp in Thursday’s outing as opposed to his March 15 start — the last time Grandal caught him — the catcher should also be credited as he’s continued to plug away at gaining a better understanding of Kershaw:
I’ve been watching his games and have a better feel for what he wants to do in certain counts, when to double-up and just see how he’s feeling out there,” Grandal said. “The more I catch him, the better I’ll get.”
Kershaw had eight strikeouts in six innings while allowing one run on four hits against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. It’s not yet known who will catch his final Spring Training start or complete the battery on Opening Day.
However, given the strides made with Grandal over the course of the last month, Dodgers fans can be at ease should it not be Ellis catching Kershaw on a consistent basis during the regular season.
Yasmani Grandal Discusses A.J. Ellis