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Grandal's dedicated rehab work pays off for Padres

After undergoing knee surgery in August, catcher battled back in time for Opening Day

SAN DIEGO -- There may have been reasons to doubt if Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal would be ready for Opening Day, especially with the March 30 opener less than eight months removed from surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

But as it's obvious to everyone now, there was no reason to doubt whether Grandal would get himself in a position to be ready for the opener, as he attacked his rehabilitation with something more than a sense of urgency and fervent determination.

"I actually believed that Opening Day was a possibility … because Yazzy believed it," said Padres general manager Josh Byrnes. "I don't think there was a day throughout the whole rehab process where Yazzy didn't think he wouldn't be ready."

This meant that Grandal had to commit himself entirely to the rehabilitation process, a program that spanned three states -- California, Florida and Arizona -- and even included a physical therapy session on the day of his wedding (Oct. 19) and an unusual workout routine on his honeymoon in Bora Bora.

Fat chance you'll find too many rehab protocols calling for water sprints in the South Pacific Ocean.

"I asked my trainer before going on my honeymoon what I could do while there," Grandal said. "He said that since I'll be around the water, that was perfect. So each day, while my wife would be sitting on the beach outside a bungalow and reading a book, I would be running sprints in the water."

That memory makes Grandal smile. It's a smile filled with gratification and satisfaction from the fact he was able to put himself in position to play on Opening Day, where he actually stole the first base of his professional career, a critical moment in the Padres' 3-1 victory over the Dodgers.

If less than eight months seems like a fast to return from such a devastating injury -- one that occurred last July when Anthony Rendon of the Nationals slid into Grandal's knee on a force play at the plate -- you're not the only one who thinks as much.

The recovery window from an ACL surgery for an athlete is generally between nine and 12 months.

"Modern medicine, each and every year with these guys, gets better and better," said Padres manager Bud Black. "And I think we're to a point now with a lot of injuries where the rehab protocol is outstanding.

"But when you think ACL, you think it takes a little longer … right?"

Grandal did have some things going for him, Byrnes said.

"In talking with our doctors, because there wasn't meniscus damage or additional issues with the knee, it seemed possible," Byrnes said. "Fortunately, his rehab went according to schedule."

Just as Grandal predicted it would last September, when, a month removed from surgery on Aug. 6, he stood in front of his locker and insisted to anyone who would listen that he would be ready to play on Opening Day.

"I'm only surprised in the sense that I didn't think I could be so far ahead of schedule," Grandal said.

That's because Grandal pushed himself hard during his rehabilitation program, one that started the day after surgery in San Diego. From there, he worked out in Florida and then in Arizona in December to get ready for Spring Training in February.

"I think the great thing about my rehab was there were three different parts to it," Grandal said. "The first part was here [San Diego], doing full range of motion and getting some of the strength back. Then, the second step was getting all the strength back. The third part was running and agility, going full-out.

"It never felt like a drill for me."

That's because Grandal was motivated to be on the field, in whatever capacity, on March 30. If there was ever a day when he considered giving himself a break or simply didn't feel like working out, all he ever had to do was look at a pocket schedule to see that day: March 30, the Dodgers at Petco Park.

"Every day, I got up and my first thought was, 'What can I do today to get my knee better?'" Grandal said.

Truth be told, though, it wasn't just Opening Day that Grandal was preparing himself for. He was getting himself ready for this weekend, as the Padres open a three-game series starting Friday in Miami against the Marlins. Grandal expects to have between 150-180 friends and family in the ballpark.

"During all of this, I've been looking forward to Opening Day, but the series in Miami … that was the one I really wanted to be ready for," Grandal said. "I wanted to show myself to my family. They saw what I was going through [rehabilitation] when I was back there.

"I'm not going to lie; getting back on the field in Miami, that's one of the things that got me to go after this even more."

Grandal caught all nine innings in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Dodgers, but he isn't to the point yet where the team has let him catch consecutive games. With three catchers currently on the 25-man roster, there is no need to do so now.

That will happen, Grandal is convinced. For the time being, though, he's happy and content with where he's at and with what he's accomplished to get back on the field. The experience has humbled him.

"I feel I've come back from the very bottom to being ready for Opening Day. That's something I'm very proud of," Grandal said. "I'm also proud of everyone who worked with me and very thankful for them."

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