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Padres' Grandal aims to be ready Opening Day

SAN DIEGO -- Barely one month removed from reconstructive surgery on his right knee, Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal stood in front of his locker last September and proclaimed that he would be ready for the start of Spring Training.

That certainly seemed a little unlikely at the time, given the severity of the injury that he suffered after an ugly collision at the plate in July against the Nationals, when Anthony Rendon slid into his right knee trying to break up a double play.

But from the start, Grandal didn't like the 9-to-12-month recovery window that was quoted him as a guideline to how long it would take him to heal and play again after having surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament.

"I took that [estimate] as a negative … I set my goal for March 1 to be 100 percent," Grandal said. "And I think we're headed to that goal. I've stayed on point and ahead of schedule and met all my goals. So far, so good. We're confident in the knee."

Grandal has worked with Padres physical therapist Rick Stauffer, and also in Florida and Arizona, during a busy offseason in which he also got married. On Saturday, he attended FanFest at Petco Park.

To date, Grandal is running the bases and catching. He'll likely be brought along slowly during the team's six-week stay in Arizona. The Padres are certainly encouraged by his progress.

"It's gone great. I know he's worked awfully hard. The medical team, the therapists have been right on," said Padres manager Bud Black. "It has been one of those rehabs that has gone real smooth. He's hit all the markers.

"Again, he plays a demanding position. So we'll keep eye on that. But as far as the timeline goes, we're really, really happy."

The Padres would love to see what Grandal can do with a full season. He impressed in a 60-game stint in 2012, hitting .297 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs. But he was suspended for the first 50 games of the 2013 season for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone. He hit .216 in 28 games following his return from the restricted list, but was then injured in July.

The Padres have two other catchers on the 40-man roster in Nick Hundley and Rene Rivera. Grandal was sharing time with Hundley at the time of the injury. Now, he's eyeing a return to actual games and isn't at all interested in waylaying his season.

Grandal was asked Saturday where he envisions himself on Opening Day, March 30, against the Dodgers.

"Behind home plate," he said, smiling. "There's nowhere else I want to be."

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.
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