• Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

Yasmani Grandal working on 2023 turnaround White Sox bet on: ‘I can’t wait’

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Nov 12, 2022

CHICAGO— White socks recipient Yasmani Grandal was on the south side Friday afternoon. For the second consecutive offseason, the Havana-born receiver who grew up in the Miami area lives in Chicago all winter. This frees him up to serve as a special guest at a home renovation that a young mother and son from the Chatham neighborhood have received from the White Sox and Digs with Dignity charities. After 6-year-old Sox fan Kamari Luellen finished watching Southpaw and his new bedroom, the sweetener was Grandal, offering a signed jersey, bats and other freebies.

“You can tell by his facial expressions how excited he was, especially when we walked into his room,” Grandal said. “Whether it’s food drives or children’s toys, packing bags to send bags of food somewhere or distributing food, or today I just made Kids2Kids, an organization of Milwaukee helping raise (money for) toys for Christmas for the kids.. Around this time we are getting busy.

In the old daysGrandal has indicated his interest in staying in Chicago beyond the end of his four-year contract, which runs until the end of next season. After a career-worst 2022 season, clearly marked by back and hamstring injuries and the aftermath of right knee surgery in October 2021, the immediate goal is to get back to a level of performance where something like that would be considered. For this, Grandal’s placement in Chicago allowed him to train with Chicago Blackhawks strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman. Throughout the season, Grandal repeatedly said his .202/.301/.269 batting line with just five homers in 99 games was down to his struggles to restore the strength and explosiveness of his legs to to regain power. Fit enough to train this winter rather than rehabilitate after surgery, Grandal said he’s already had about 30 grueling sessions with Goodman as part of his effort to get to spring training at full strength. Powerful.

“He kinda kicked my ass,” said Grandal, who was clearly happy to be able to challenge himself physically again. “He regained stamina for at least the first three weeks. We’re in our 30th session now, so it’s been pretty tough so far. Hopefully it will get a little harder as we go along. I feel good. I’m very good. I can not wait.

Earlier this week, speaking in a Las Vegas casino ballroom rather than a front yard, the chief executive Rick Hahn has indicated he believes in Grandal’s ability to transform his performance it was rooted in the belief that a healthy offseason would provide a significant boost. The White Sox have indicated that they have limited wiggle room in their budget to add through free agency, and while they intend to explore the trade market, in many cases they consider that restoring underperforming veterans to career standards is the shortest path to improvement. For now, it appears the Sox view Grandal as a core member of that group.

“Having Yasmani right, the 2021 release, let alone the guy he was in large part to lead this, the guy is a huge asset to the 23-year-old White Sox,” Hahn said. “There’s always a health risk with any player, but it’s more complicated with guys who have had injury problems before. You take that into account as best you can and you spend time decent at investigating the underlying causes of a man’s fall, and whether the underlying measurements and analysis show a reasonable expectation of regression.

After hitting 23 home runs in 93 games the previous season, Grandal has only hit five in 2022. (Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today)

Grandal’s bat will largely serve as an indicator of whether his work to restore himself physically has taken hold, but his injury struggles and Chicago’s early elimination from playoff contention have allowed him to start thinking about how he would try to improve his defense this offseason. During his rehab stints at Triple-A Charlotte in 2022, Grandal would meet catch coordinator Julio Mosquera, who was also the Knights’ interim manager. At the end of the Triple-A season, Mosquera and his bespoke “Air Julio” sneakers were in Chicago working with Grandal on adjustments to his capture setup.

“We talked about a few things to prepare for, to make sure that when he goes down to the block he relaxes so he doesn’t have as much impact in his legs,” Mosquera said. Athleticism last month. “What we talked about was understanding where he needed to be in the setup, to make sure he was able to get around the ball and to make sure he was quicker in that position. The most important thing for me was the level of comfort he felt the right way, getting into a comfortable position to block a ball.

Mosquera’s main goal is to take the stress out of Grandal’s knees, with the pretense that if he’s healthy and plays with less pain, he’ll hit and catch better. But while Grandal was again an above-average pitch setter last season, albeit falling short of some of his elite past performances, the value he accumulates by stealing strikes is responsible for making up for the issues. blockage. Grandal has led the league in passed balls three times in his career and also topped the leaderboard in 2022, despite playing less time. After a strong performance in 2020 when he knocked out 6 of 13 runners, the rate Grandal’s steal has been below 20% for the past two seasons. Mosquera attributed this to Grandal keeping his right foot too wide and creating too much spin and tail action on his throws.

In addition to correcting this mechanical issue, Mosquera has made progress in getting Grandal comfortable with a one-knee stance in certain situations. Grandal and catch instructor Jerry Narron started using this method in 2021 after Grandal twisted his right knee during spring training, but the immediate drop in his framing numbers led Grandal to revert to a squat traditional once he felt capable. While Mosquera introduced it as a way to take the strain off Grandal’s knees, keep him lower to the ground to block balls, and put him in a position from which he could develop comfortable field-framing throws, the stance returns to the game of the 34-year-old receiver. . Anything that can help him make himself physically better takes on renewed importance.

“I told him: ‘You are not getting any younger and we will try to keep you healthy,'” Mosquera said. “There is an impact when you go up and down, up and down, up and down. What happens when you relax more on one knee, I think it gets more mobility, and that’s what you want as a baseball player.

It’s hard to prove a level of coaching buy-in in the offseason, but Grandal is doing its best. He plans to fly Mosquera for a week next month to continue their work together in person. Later that month, he plans to fly to the team compound for a wide receivers camp in Arizona with Mosquera and other young supporters of the organization. After that, Cuba-born Grandal and Panama-born Mosquera will brave the conditions of a January in Chicago, when Grandal intends to fly Mosquera to work with him again.

“We’ll be going full throttle by the time spring training rolls around,” Grandal said.

This is the objective and the underlying work behind a plan to catch the White Sox in 2023. Without it, the plan would otherwise seem to depend on the mere hope that a player who was bad in 2022 will improve in 2023 under the new manager Pedro Grifol. Although it seems that is also part of the equation.

“I got a few text messages from players I know, players he had, and the only thing I got from them was ‘You’re in good hands,'” Grandal said. “Everything he said was the right thing. He’s spoken to, pretty sure, every player now. He wants to bring the new attitude, the attitude that we need, and make sure we play baseball the right way and prepare as much as possible. To me, that’s all you can really ask for.

(Top photo: David Richard/USA Today)