White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal progressing but still not ready to play

“It feels good right now,” Grandal said of his calf strain. “We still have a few hurdles to get over. More mental than anything. For the most part it’s felt really good.”

SHARE White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal progressing but still not ready to play
Yasmani Grandal has been working on the backfields at White Sox camp.

Yasmani Grandal has been working on the backfields at White Sox camp.

John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal said he’s making progress with his mild left calf strain, but he still doesn’t know when he’ll begin playing Cactus League games.

“It feels good right now,” Grandal said Friday. “We still have a few hurdles to get over, more mental than anything. For the most part, it’s felt really good. The plan is still the same. We’re going to take it a day at a time, and we’re going to assess it and go from there.”

A mental hurdle seems to be the sticking point for Grandal right now. He said the calf, which he injured about two weeks before the start of spring training while running, is not sore. And the Sox’ training staff has assured him that the calf muscle is stronger than it was before the injury.

“That’s the problem,” Grandal said. “We want to get it sore, and we can’t. So we’ve been hammering it out as much as we can and trying to see if I get tired or get sore.

“It’s about being comfortable pushing off it and not really thinking about it. Because once you start thinking, you’re done.”

Grandal has been participating in live batting practice and catching live BPs. Signed to a four-year, $73 million contract in the offseason, he remains confident he will catch in three consecutive spring games before Opening Day.

“Oh, we’re going to get in games,” he said. “We have it planned out.

“I need to make sure I’m able to play three days in a row. We need to make sure I’m catching at least seven innings on back-to-back days because if you catch seven, you can catch nine. So, yeah, that’s what we’re working toward.”

While there seems to be little concern that Grandal will be ready for Opening Day, setbacks such as these are reminders of why depth, which the Sox have lacked even in seasons before the rebuild, is key. The Sox might want to think twice about trading catcher James McCann, who earned his first trip to the All-Star Game with an excellent first half last season.

Grandal has spent the extra time afforded by the injury studying pitchers’ video. He’s taking his role as receiver and handler of pitchers seriously, just one reason why the Sox aggressively pursued him in the offseason.

“He’s done his homework,” manager Rick Renteria said.

In large part for his pitch-framing — he ranked second in the majors, according to FanGraphs — and offense from both sides of the plate, MLB Network ranked Grandal first among catchers in baseball. Grandal led catchers in walks (109) and on-base percentage (.383) and was second in extra-base hits (50), total bases (215) and runs (68).

As soon as he gets on the field, the Sox should get a look of what that actually looks like. That should be sooner rather than later. Grandal faced Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease in live batting practice Friday and looked fine getting out of the batter’s box and moving down the baseline after making contact at the plate.

“They’ve done everything they can to make sure that he’s gone through a rigorous recovery process,” Renteria said. “When they went through blocking and recovering [Thursday], which is a very explosive move, one of the last things that we were wanting to see, he did very, very well. If he doesn’t feel any soreness, the indication is that he’s doing very, very well and is healed.”

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