Yasmani Grandal hadn’t been on the field for the Chicago White Sox since June 11.
The catcher, understandably, was hyped in his return from the injured list Friday when the Sox played the Cleveland Guardians at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“I think in the fourth inning I was still shaking,” Grandal said before Saturday’s doubleheader. “I was just way too hyped up (Friday). It was a plus for me.”
Grandal’s return is a plus for the Sox, as Saturday showed: He had three hits and one RBI in Game 1, a 7-4 loss, then went 1-for-3 with a crucial walk during the two-run eighth inning in the 5-4 victory in Game 2.
Sox manager Tony La Russa referenced the spark Grandal gave the team when the catcher returned from an injury last season — slashing .337/.481/.673 in 30 games — after watching him produce Saturday.
“He was really productive,” La Russa said after Game 2 Saturday. “Professional hitter, from both sides.”
Grandal, who did not play in Sunday’s series finale, is 4-for-11 (.364) with two RBIs and a walk in his first three games since being reinstated.
Overall, Grandal has a .196/.300/.245 slash line with two homers and 17 RBIs in 53 games. He hit in five straight before the injury, including two two-hit games. He exited June 11 after a single to right in the third inning against the Texas Rangers with what at the time was diagnosed as left hamstring tightness.
Grandal went on the injured list retroactively June 12 with lower back spasms. He appeared in nine rehab games with Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte, going 9-for-25 (.360) with two home runs, five RBIs, 13 walks and five runs.
“In Birmingham, it definitely took me a few days,” Grandal said. “Obviously all those young guys see the big-league rehab guy and they just want to just start firing things at him. It took me a few days to get the swing going from the left side. But once I got it, it was pretty much a done deal. And then all of a sudden, I hadn’t seen a lefty in 3½ weeks and it took another few days in Charlotte. But once I got it, it was good to go.
“The focus was to end the rehab assignment feeling good, not regressing or anything like that. (Friday) for me individually, I was talking to Dan (Bellino) the umpire behind the plate, and I kept telling him I’m just hoping to get out of this game healthy. That’s all I’m looking for. It’s getting that mental block out of the way and letting things flow as they go.”
Grandal caught Friday and was the designated hitter in both games Saturday. It remains to be seen how often Grandal is behind the plate early on in his return.
“The difference from a rehab assignment to now being up here is the fact that everything is kind of planned out, so you kind of know exactly what you’re doing,” Grandal said. “Then once you get into (big-league) games, it’s a little different because you don’t know how the lineup is going to be constructed or you don’t know whether you’re going to be DH-ing or playing first or catching.
“I’m sure they’re going to want to get (José Abreu) a few DH days. Maybe I get a few days at first. Maybe those days are just days off for me. I’m planning on catching as much as I can. Because I’ve got to get back into rhythm and I only had like three games behind the plate in Triple A. Everything else was either DH or first base. To get the rhythm back behind the plate, I’m going to have to be back there for a long period of time.”
Grandal is confident the rhythm the Sox displayed before the All-Star break, winning five of their last six, can be extended. They rebounded after dropping their first two after the break to the Guardians, winning the final two of the series. That wrapped up a stretch of 19 consecutive games against American League Central opponents in which the Sox went 10-9. They are .500 at 48-48.
“These guys ended the first half very strong,” Grandal said. “You saw what they did in Cleveland, you saw what they did in Minnesota. There’s another (66) games that we’ve got to worry about. If we take care of that, I think at the end of the day we’ll be where we want to be.
“It doesn’t matter if you get in as a division winner or a wild card. You just need a chance to take a shot at the main goal, which is getting that World Series.”