Yasmani Grandal‘s brief major league career is checkered at best. He was suspended for 50 games in November 2012 following a positive test for testosterone. He’s batted just .224 since. His 2013 season ended when he tore multiple ligaments in his right knee during a collision at home plate, an injury that required reconstructive surgery.
And this was the player the Dodgers coveted in a trade for Matt Kemp?
Amid all the reasons to be skeptical, the 26-year-old catcher was smiling Saturday at the Dodgers’ annual FanFest. A switch-hitter, Grandal batted .328 in 19 games for Toros del Este in the recently completed Dominican Winter League. He hit two home runs, including “one of the furthest home runs I’ve hit from the right-hand side.” It was his first right-handed home run in a game at any level since 2013 — a fact Grandal recites quickly.
To Grandal, that success at the plate is evidence that his knee is completely healed.
“It’s 110 percent” improved compared to a year ago, Grandal said. “It’s the reason I went to the Dominican Republic to make sure I was right. I think I showed I was right and that’s why so many teams started calling in afterwards.”
Grandal said that five teams were interested in trading for him when he returned to the U.S., including the Dodgers.
Now that he’s here, Grandal can largely dictate his own role with his bat and his glove. He’s slated to platoon with incumbent A.J. Ellis. Grandal said that he, Ellis and manager Don Mattingly recently met in person but there is still no specific arrangement for how the two catchers will split the playing time.
“A.J. couldn’t put it any better: Whatever it takes to win,” he said. “If that day A.J. is the man for the job behind the plate and we are going to get a win with A.J. behind the plate, that’s going to be him. At the end of the day, if we get a win, that’s a team win and we all get a ring.”
As for the testosterone suspension, Grandal said “everything is out. There’s nothing more I can really tell you. The way I see it, we make mistakes and we learn from them. Just like the game of baseball. You make a mistake in one at-bat, come back and learn.”
Grandal issued a statement at the time apologizing to fans but did not attempt to explain the reason for the positive test.
Until he shows the raw hitting talent that made him the 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Grandal will have his doubters. Between his improved health and his new team, Grandal had at least two reasons for optimism on Saturday.