By Jon Weisman
Before Saturday’s Game 2 of the National League Division Series was postponed, Yasmani Grandal gave a pretty entertaining press session with reporters.
Here’s how it began:
Q. What is it about Kenley Jansen that makes him not only able to have five-out saves, like what Dave (Roberts) asked him to do last night, but lets him thrive in situations like that?
YASMANI GRANDAL: 98-mile-per-hour cutter.
Q. Anything about his mentality —
YASMANI GRANDAL: No. 98-mile-per-hour cutter.
If it seems as if Grandal was being curt, he actually gave thoughtful and lengthy responses to subsequent questions …
On catching Game 2 starter Rich Hill:
It’s fun to catch Rich just because of … all the angles and how much movement he has got on his fastball and his curveball. It seems like he has got five different curveballs and three different fastballs. So that aspect of a game is pretty fun for me to do it.
I don’t know about other people, but you know, at times it’s a little bit challenging. … You don’t know what his curveball is going to do when he drops down. You don’t know what his curveball is going to do when he’s throwing it over the top.
At times it is a little challenging just to catch the ball to try and help him out behind home plate, and to make sure that I help him out doing what I’m capable of doing behind home plate. Like the stats said, framing is one of the top things in the league right now. … My challenge, basically, each and every day, is making sure that I’m prepared to help him. If I’m able to get a couple strikes here and there, then that’s always a good thing.
On Game 3 starter Kenta Maeda:
Kenta has been great. There’s nothing else you could ask for. You know, he started the year off, and basically, we had a plan for him. We’re going to let him do what he wanted to do. And then we were going to start putting in little by little what we thought he should do.
At the beginning of the season, his fastball wasn’t there. He just had no command, so he just went straight to his slider. Obviously, his slider was his one pitch he was going to get everybody out.
At the time that happened, you know, the league started getting adjusted to it. He got a couple bad outings and he kind of figured out, hey, I can’t live with my slider only. I’ve got to start using other pitches, and that’s when his fastball and his changeup came. And the fact that he was able to do that; that he was able to adjust to the league and battle.
You look back at the Mets game where he gets hit in the hand and he still throws six strong innings. You look back at St. Louis where it’s 100 degrees and 90 percent humidity. It’s probably one of those situations where he’s never been in, and he gives up a big, I think, two or three home runs — and he’s still throwing six and seven innings, and he’s mad at himself because he thought he didn’t have a good outing.
On catching Clayton Kershaw:
With Kershaw, you know, it’s Kershaw. He’s going to do what he’s going to do. A lot of times, he’s going to call his own game. He’s going to throw what he wants and what he feels like (is) working that day. And you are just making suggestions. … At certain times, you make the right suggestion and he’s going to go with it. But more times than not, he’s probably going to throw the pitch he wants to throw. If he thinks that a fastball is better than his slider at a certain point, that’s what he’s going to go to. If he thinks his slider is better than his fastball at a certain point, that’s what he’s going to go to.
If you look back at the at-bat yesterday against (Danny) Espinosa to strike him out, and throw down a 2, and he kind of double-looks just to make sure that’s exactly what he saw. Right there, it just tells me that he wasn’t thinking about a curveball. He was probably thinking about a fastball. But curveball might have been in the back of his head, so as soon as I called it, that’s what he went to.
On how A.J. Ellis’ name is always invoked by the media when Kershaw is on the mound:
The way I see it, obviously if I was one of the best pitchers, if not the best pitcher in the world, and I had as much success as I had with a guy behind the plate, obviously it would be hard for somebody to get away from that. So you know, I don’t really think about it.
I mean, obviously A.J. did a great job kind of getting Kershaw by the hand when he first got to the big leagues and making him into the pitcher that he is today. But at the same time, if Kersh wouldn’t work as hard as he works, kept his routine that he does now, he probably would not be in the spot where he is right now. You look at a guy who four days in between starts is literally doing something every single hour of every single minute, I mean, he’s doing something to get better. He wants to get better. You know, it’s pretty hard to say for a guy who has done as much as he has. He has an MVP. He’s got a 20-plus-win year. He’s got a couple of Cy Youngs. He’s been an All-Star.
But to see a guy prepare the way he does, I mean, he was going to be good no matter what. So the way I see it is I’m going to try and do as good as I can do back there to help him out. If it’s getting a strike here and there, if it’s getting the chemistry on the same page, I’m going to do as much as I can do.
There’s no doubt that A.J. did a great job with him, but you can’t really think about that. That’s in the past. We live in the present and we’re always thinking about the future.
On how the physical challenges of catching affect his offense:
I guess it’s my fault, because I picked this position. I picked this spot. I’ll take a shutout, I’ll take a no-hitter, I’ll take a perfect game over hitting .350 in one certain year.
It’s just for me, it makes me sleep better when I know I’m doing a good job behind the plate instead of hitting. You know, if I hit, that’s just one of those things where it’s a plus. But if I don’t, and we come out with a win, I’m still sleeping nice and tight. It’s just those nights where we don’t win, then I feel like we need to do more or “what we could have done differently” and things like that that keep me up at night.
It’s just part of game, part of the position that you’re playing. It’s going to happen. You’re going to get hit. If you think about it too much, it’s just going to make it worse.
On stopping the running game:
I mean, anybody that knows baseball knows that the runner steals the base off the pitcher. If you’re quick to the plate, and you give (the catcher) a chance, you’re probably going to throw him out. … There’s the exception of Billy Hamilton, where you call a (pitchout) on him and he’s still safe at second. You probably have a handful of guys that can do that. But for the most part, if you get a good jump and you get it off the pitcher, you’re going to be safe, especially if you’re fast.
So the catcher can’t really worry about that. That’s when you start throwing the ball away and making errors. I’m not really worried about that.
If you’re referring to Trea Turner, I’ve seen him. We’ve studied him. We’ve scouted him. But the fact that he is fast, you know, he’s fast. When I was in San Diego, he was drafted No. 1 overall. I saw his highlight reel. Josh Byrnes came up to me, and he was very excited about him. I’ve seen this guy play. It’s not news that the guy can play and he’s fast.