Notes: Grandal, Lambert debut; Kopech OK

March 14th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- ’s three plate appearances in a 6-5 White Sox victory over the Angels Saturday at Camelback Ranch marked his first Cactus League action.

The switch-hitting catcher started at designated hitter and popped out in the first, struck out swinging on a 3-2 pitch against Shohei Ohtani in the second and drew a walk in the fourth. Grandal had been out of game action since twisting his right knee during a running drill on Feb. 24 and didn’t provide a definitive answer when asked if he would be ready for Opening Day. There’s still work to do and progress to be made, albeit with more than two weeks remaining in Spring Training.

“I'm definitely not going to rush it. I'm definitely not going to rush into things,” said Grandal during an in-game Zoom. “I'm hoping I get the amount of ABs I need to feel comfortable. Right now, repetition behind the plate is probably No. 1.

“I could care less if I start off the season hitting or not. I know the bat is going to come through at some point, and once that happens, then it's a done deal. Being able to hopefully get more repetitions behind the plate catching-wise, where I'm blocking and I'm throwing and I'm moving around and calling the game and seeing how the game is going along, I think that's No. 1.

“No matter what happens, always at the beginning of Spring Training, the first few games you start racing,” Grandal said. “As you go on and you start getting on a rhythm and you start getting a feel and you start slowing things down, that's when everything comes to you.”

Grandal has felt things in the past with his knees, though it usually just went away as time went on. But the swelling following this injury, where Grandal stepped wrong and felt something right away, is what caught his attention.

“The fact that when I saw it, it was swollen, kind of raised some eyebrows there -- 'What's going on that all of a sudden it can get this way?'” Grandal said. “Right now it feels 10 times better than it did back then. Strength is coming back. I'm finally able to walk normal. We'll continue to check off boxes and keep working at it, keep going with it.”

An MRI taken on Grandal’s knee showed no structural damage. The next thing for Grandal is to start blocking, throwing to bases and doing those little things to see how it reacts.

“I've been catching more and more,” Grandal said. “I had to kind of switch around the way that I catch just a little bit, in order to take some stress off of it. Once I feel like it's 100 percent, I can go back to my regular stance.

“It was nice to be out there competing. I don't deal too good with situations, especially when I'm hurt. The fact that I was able to go out and have a regular day and just compete, period, is definitely a good thing for me.”

Lambert looks good
Jimmy Lambert cruised through a scoreless first -- striking out Franklin Barreto and Jared Walsh -- in his Cactus League debut. Lambert ultimately wants to be a starter, but he also wants to break camp with the big league team. Manager Tony La Russa, however, has talked about Lambert and Jonathan Stiever stretching out as rotation depth at Triple-A Charlotte.

“That’s not really up to me, so I don’t know if I should speak on that,” said Lambert after his eight-pitch inning. “I’m going to keep coming to camp every day with hopes and the idea that I’m going to be on the Opening Day roster until they tell me to my face that I’m not.

“I don’t know how likely that is, I know they’ve talked about me being a starter and I want to be a starter. But like I said, I’m going to keep coming to camp with the hopes that I’m going to be on the plane to Anaheim until they tell me I’m not.”

Third to first
• La Russa reported no lingering issues for Michael Kopech. The right-hander threw a bullpen on Friday instead of pitching in a game due to calf tightness. Kopech is scheduled to pitch in relief Monday against the Cubs.

• Dallas Keuchel threw a live bullpen during White Sox workouts prior to Saturday’s contest.

• Matt Foster made his Cactus League debut but didn’t get out of the second inning. The right-handed reliever reached his pitch limit after two walks, two hits and two runs scored.

• Luis Robert hit his first home run of spring, doubled and picked up a stolen base in Saturday’s victory. Leury García homered in a three-hit day, Tim Anderson chipped in two knocks and Eloy Jiménez took away extra bases from Luis Rengifo with a nice catch at the left-field wall in the fifth.

He said it
“It’s honestly surreal. I grew up watching teams that were managed by him and he’s a baseball legend, so to have him speak highly of me is definitely really cool.” -- Lambert, on receiving media praise from La Russa