GLENDALE, Ariz. — Yasmani Grandal tapped the brakes on all the World Series talk.
Just a little bit.
“Yeah, it’s always good to have high expectations, but we need to understand that the World Series is six months away or so — we need to stay in the moment,” the White Sox catcher said. “We need to understand that, yes, we can look forward to that, but we need to make sure we’re in the here, we’re working towards a goal — we’re not just thinking about it.”
The Sox have publicly made it clear what their intentions are, and it’s winning the ultimate prize. Coaches, players and even general manager Rick Hahn are saying it, and why not?
But Grandal, who has played in the postseason the last six seasons with the Dodgers, Brewers and Sox and in the World Series in 2017 and ’18 with the Dodgers, speaks from an informed, experienced perspective.
“In order to get to the World Series, there’s a lot of checkpoints we need to get to first and understand that we need to keep on getting better as we go on,” he said.
Getting a taste of the playoffs in 2020 was good. And if the taste was sour after a 2-1 wild-card series loss to the Athletics, good. The Sox finished 35-25 in an abbreviated season, faded after being the first team to clinch a berth and finished behind the Twins in a second-place tie with the Indians in the division.
“We have to make sure that we take back the Central, win the division, get into the playoffs, and then we go from there,” Grandal said. “Learn about what happened last year in the playoffs and then apply it to this year. And then we can move forward. If we’re able to do that, we concentrate, we focus on each and every single goal that we have, we should be fine.”
Most of the Sox’ young core were postseason first-timers, “and, for the first time in the postseason for a lot of guys, there’s a lot of pressure, there’s a lot of anxiety that you don’t know how to deal with — that you don’t really think about, but it’s there,” Grandal said.
“Some guys might have fear — you don’t know — just because they’re putting pressure on themselves just because it’s the playoffs. It’s a learning curve. It’s another step towards that. Now, this year, once they get into the postseason, they already know what it feels like, they already know how to deal with the anxiety and the pressure, and once you do that, it comes down to just playing the game.”
Watch and learn
Manager Tony La Russa was impressed watching four-time Gold Glove winner Dallas Keuchel go through pitchers’ fielding practice.
“It’s leadership — lead by example,” La Russa said. “Especially a quality pitcher. Guys watch, especially young guys. Even the drills, he’s a Gold Glove winner, so when you do the PFP, he’s out there just dazzling. He looks like Tim Anderson playing short. What’s a young guy gonna do? ‘I’m going to try and make sure I put the same effort.’ The leadership by example is great, and then he pitches in a game and gives you a chance to win.
“Veterans, guys in their prime and young guys — that’s a great mix for a team because they feed off each other. And in this case, Dallas is one of our veterans. He sets a great example.”