When Yasmani Grandal returns from knee injury unknown, but catcher ‘moving around well’ two weeks after surgery
Whether the White Sox choose to ride out out Yasmani Grandal’s knee injury without a veteran addition before the trade deadline will be decided between now and July 30. But manager Tony La Russa pointed to Sox pitching of late as a case for standing pat with Zack Collins and Seby Zavala.
“The record from the day Yas got hurt till today speaks for itself,” La Russa said. “Especially the quality of the pitching.”
Going into their game against the Twins Tuesday at Guaranteed Rate Field, the Sox have won eight of 10 games since Grandal’s injury. Pitchers ERAs are just one barometer of a catcher’s game calling and handling skill, especially over a small sample size, but it’s worth noting Sox pitchers have thrown to a 1.43 ERA over the light-hitting Zavala’s five starts through Monday.
Whether general manager Rick Hahn swings a deal for a veteran catcher remains to be seen. Just how long the Sox are expecting to wait for Grandal, who had knee surgery two weeks ago but is already throwing, hitting in the cage and doing other light work, might factor in the decision.
“He’s moving around real well,” said coach Jerry Narron, who oversees Sox catchers. “I’ve been really surprised how well Yas is moving. I don’t even know about the timetable. When they say he’s ready to do baseball activities, we’ll get after it.”
In the meantime, it’s Collins and Zavala at arguably the most important non-pitching defensive position on the field. Called up from Triple-A Charlotte when Grandal went down, Zavala caught left-hander Dallas Keuchel Tuesday while Collins, who was the DH, is slated to catch Dylan Cease Wednesday. Collins has caught Sox pitchers to a 3.80 ERA (Grandal is at 3.54).
Lucas Giolito and Collins, who has caught 62 games in his career including Rodon’s no-hitter, have both said they are comfortable throwing to Collins. Zavala caught the combined one-hitter of Rodon, Michael Kopech and Liam Hendriks Sunday.
“Zavala has a well deserved reputation for handling pitching,” La Russa said.
“He’s very, very prepared, he knows what a catcher’s job is — for us to get the most out of a pitcher that night,” Narron said. “He does a fantastic job. He takes a lot of pride in calling a good ballgame.”
Zavala caught five innings of two-run ball from left-hander Dallas Keuchel Tuesday. After Michael Kopech, working two innings of relief for the first time since May 24, allowed a homer to Josh Donaldson leading off the sixth that trimmed the Sox lead to 4-3, he struck out four straight batters. Kopech then walked two and had to be rescued by left fielder Brian Goodwin’s diving catch of Nelson Cruz’s sinking liner.
Keuchel allowed a homer to Max Kepler in the second and an RBI single to Andrelton Simmons in the fifth and exited after 89 pitches. The Sox scored two in the first on Jose Abreu’s RBI double and Yoan Moncada’s RBI single, and two in the third on Moncada’s two-run homer.
Narron doesn’t seem completely comfortable with two catchers with such limited experience, but knows “they’ll both be prepared. We’ll see what happens with them.”
Grandal is likely several weeks away from a return, but the Sox do have the luxury of an 8 1⁄2 game lead in the AL Central going into Tuesday.
“The catching position is like all 26 spots,” Narron said. “If the general manager thinks he can make a deal to make the club better he’s going to do that but if not, we’ll do everything we can with what we’ve got. I’m happy with them. They do a real good job.”