Grandal off to hot start after facing adversity

Catcher dealt with difficult family issues last season; Muncy promoted from Triple-A

April 18th, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- Catcher Yasmani Grandalarrived at Spring Training with much on his plate. was there to claim his job and Grandal had to wrestle with the competition in his free-agency year.

But that paled in comparison to what Grandal went through the previous season.

"I had a lot of things happen last year," said Grandal, whose third career grand slam served as an exclamation point in Monday's 10-3 win over the Padres. "My wife had a high-risk pregnancy and we didn't know if it was going to happen or not."

So Grandal would race home to Peoria, Ariz., to be with her whenever possible. Their son, Yasmani, is now a healthy 5-month-old.

"I just kept going back to Arizona countless times," he said. "If there was a flight available, I would take a flight. If not, I'm driving five hours over there and five hours back the next day. I couldn't tell you how many times -- every day off, even during homestands, I had to go back, especially when she reached 36 weeks. I was going back two, three times a week thinking he was coming some time. Every time my wife went into the hospital and was kept there, I made sure I was there."

So while his playing time diminished down the stretch and in the playoffs, Grandal had perspective. It stung to be on the bench, but Grandal was carrying a heavy load.

"There was a lot of things going on the outside when I look back at last year," said Grandal. "I think I did pretty good just handling what was going on around me and coming in every day and pretty much giving 100 percent."

Grandal didn't give up on his swing in the offseason, but he tinkered with it. He attempted to increase his launch angle while keeping his eagle eye, which lets him expertly discern balls from strikes.

"It's a process," he said. "It's sticking with what you work on and executing. I think the execution is the biggest thing and you knowing that there are going to be days when you feel [bad] and days when you feel really good. It's, 'How do you balance it out?'"

Grandal, a switch-hitter, is among the few Dodgers starting fast. Manager Dave Roberts said earlier in the series, dating to camp, he's never seen Grandal so focused. Going into Tuesday's game, Grandal had a team-high .372 average and 10 RBIs. He was tied for the club lead with three homers. On Tuesday, he provided what ended up being the game-winning hit, a two-run double in the 12th inning of a 7-3 win.

"I'm happy in the way my at-bats are going," Grandal said. "If I'm getting six-plus pitches per at-bat, I know it's not like that every single time, but if I'm able to work a count and able to get six or seven balls, even if I strike out, it doesn't mean I'm walking back feeling bad about myself. I'm thinking what pitch I could have hit, how they attacked me and knowing somebody is going to pay."

A solid season will result in a firm payday if Grandal hits the open market. But he's got a closed mind to that subject.

"I think you guys think about more than I do, to tell you the truth," he said. "I just want to play. If the numbers are there, that really doesn't matter. As long as I'm playing, I'm happy."

Grandal is good at stiff-arming distractions. He's content to keep his head down, do his work and contribute to a victory. The jeers pointed his direction by Padres fans toward this ex-Padre fall on deaf ears.

"Something happens when playing the game," he said. "I've had my daughter screaming before from two rows up and I'm not able to hear her. You are so locked in on what you are trying to do and if you're listening to everything on the outside, you are not going to be able to perform as good as you should be performing.

"My main concern when I'm playing the game is pretty much winning that day. I could care less what is happening around me. Unless there is a fight at Dodger Stadium and everybody stops, that's different."

Grandal had to battle his emotions last year. This year, his head is clear and his bat is sizzling.

"Whether I'm starting or not, it's about going back to the process, going back to the execution and knowing what you want to do," he said. "If you build a game plan and execute it, you should be fine."

Grandal, who drove in five runs on Monday night, is just that. And more importantly, so is his baby boy.

Muncy promoted, Valera optioned

The Dodgers selected the contract of infielder/outfielder before the game from Triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned infielder to OKC.

Muncy, 27, appeared in nine games with OKC, going 10-for-32 (.313) with two home runs, two doubles and four RBIs. He played with OKC last season and was a non-roster invitee to the big league camp, where he opened some eyes.

Muncy is expected to start on Wednesday in the series finale with the Padres and in Friday's series opener against the Nationals. Muncy provides infield depth as the team juggles playing with (wrist) and (shoulder) on the disabled list.

"We want to see Max," Roberts said. "That was our original idea when Logan went down. He's a good defender at third and first and we really like him in the box."

Muncy just wants to see the field.

"Part of being a defensive utility guy is you never know where you're going to play,'' he said. "They said, 'Just be ready.'"