Grandal glad to put suspension behind him
Switch-hitting catcher starts upon returning from 50-game ban
SEATTLE -- Catcher Yasmani Grandal sat on the bench in the visiting dugout at Safeco Field on Tuesday afternoon, the first time he'd done so in a big league ballpark this season.
He didn't appear or sound the least bit anxious after his return to the team from a 50-game suspension that he received in November due to elevated levels of testosterone.
If anything, Grandal sounded eager and like game No. 51 couldn't get here quick enough.
"It's not nerves. It's more like being excited," Grandal said, smiling.
Grandal was in the starting lineup and batting sixth on Tuesday against the Mariners, going 1-for-4 and scoring a run after completing his exile from the team to begin the season. He appeared in nine games with Triple-A Tucson recently, flying to Seattle on Monday to rejoin the Padres.
He has no intentions of going back and, from the sound of it Tuesday, it appears the 24-year-old switch-hitter will play a lot initially, according to manager Bud Black.
"For right now, Yazzy is going to get a number of starts to get up to speed and get going. We don't want to halt any momentum he has coming in," Black said.
Grandal, who hit .306 in 36 at-bats with Tucson, participated in Spring Training with the team and then remained behind to play in extended spring games and allow a meddlesome injury to his left middle finger to heal.
He spent time thinking about Tuesday, too.
"You're somewhere else [Arizona], you're not with your team. The one thing you have to do is try to get back and do whatever you can to get ready so when you do, you're ready to make that impact."
"From the offseason to Spring Training, it went by super slow. But as soon as we got done with Spring Training, it went by real quick. The next thing I knew, I had to go to Iowa [with Tucson]. And we're here now."
Last season, Grandal ran away with the starting catching duties after he was promoted for a second time on June 30. In his first start, he hit home runs from each side of the plate against the Rockies. He had a .297/.394/.469 line with eight home runs and 36 RBIs in 192 at-bats with the Padres.
Then came the positive test for elevated levels of testosterone in the offseason. Grandal didn't speak with reporters until he reported to Spring Training in February and only then did he read a statement. He did so after apologizing to his teammates.
"That was the most critical time for him, gaining back the players," Black said. "The first couple of days, it was the team apology, the individual apology to our veteran players and his remorse and what it did to the team.
"I think all that took place in the spring. I think now coming back it's not nearly the story that it was in February."
That sentiment was shared by outfielder Will Venable, who didn't see Grandal's return as a distraction at all.
"We got enough to occupy our minds as far as taking care of our own jobs and helping our team win," Venable said. "Yaz coming back will do nothing but help that.
"We're excited to get a good player back and we know Yaz and we know what it's like having him in the clubhouse. We are looking forward to going out and taking care of our business. Nothing changes now."
Upon his return, Grandal was asked if he felt he had anything to prove. He shook his head.
"If I have to prove anything, it's to the Padres. The fans need to understand that. My job comes first. The Padres are the ones who have me in the big leagues. They're the ones who have the decision to bring me up or down," Grandal said.
"If you're in the Major Leagues, you're getting another opportunity to prove yourself, to show the team you're with that you belong here. There's no baggage that you carry around."
From the reports Black received, Grandal played well in extended spring games and with Tucson. The finger that prevented him from swinging much in the offseason is healed.
"Even as far back as extended spring, he's been playing. Tucson got him a little closer to feeling like a Major Leaguer," Black said. "I think it just serves us best for him to pop right in the lineup. I think he's ready physically, I think he's mentally ready, our Triple-A staff said he's been playing well."
The Padres optioned catcher John Baker to Tucson to make room for Grandal on the 25-man roster and also designated Minor League infielder Edinson Rincon for assignment as Grandal was reinstated from the restricted list back to the 40-man roster.
Black said catcher Nick Hundley -- who is hitting .143 in May -- will also play, but at least initially Grandal will see more playing time.
"They're both going to play. We're going to see how Yazzy plays. It's a very demanding position," Black said. "Yazzy is just starting out as a Major League catcher and he's got a lot of room to grow. We feel as though we have a really good tandem.
"On Nick's half, it might be good for him to watch a couple of games in the short term. He's had, offensively, a couple of tough offensive weeks."