Grandal, La Russa already on same page
Most White Sox players are just getting to know Tony La Russa, or looking forward to meeting their new manager in the coming days of spring training.
Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal and La Russa, on the other hand, have already seen quite a bit of each other.
In January, La Russa moved into a small apartment near Camelback Ranch.
"Anytime you come to a new ballclub, familiarity is a big issue," La Russa said. "The sooner you can start that process, the better. A lot of the decisions the coaching staff makes, including the manager, are based on what you've learned about what a guy can do and what you should try to avoid, right?
"So I got here in January. There are guys that are rehabbing, guys are working on their own."
Grandal lives in nearby Peoria, Ariz., and was a frequent visitor at the White Sox's training complex. He immediately hit it off with La Russa.
"Every time I've been here, he's been here," Grandal said Thursday after Sox pitchers and catchers wrapped up their second workout of spring training. "I feel like he looks at the game almost the same way that I do, where I want to make sure we cover everything from head to toe, no matter what, from the beginning to the end and afterward in order to be successful. And I think that's why he's had the success that he's had in his managerial career."
Before retiring in 2011, La Russa won 2,728 games managing the Sox (1979-86), Athletics (1986-95) and Cardinals (1996-2011). He made 14 trips to the postseason, finished in first place a dozen times and won three World Series.
La Russa always relied heavily on his catchers, and he already knows Grandal is something special.
"Very intelligent," the 76-year-old manager said of the two-time all star. "You can tell that he's applied his intelligence to his craft, in all directions. We're talking about the catching side. He takes every piece of it, whether it's the receiving, the calling, the blocking.
"(New White Sox catching coach) Jerry Narron made a comment at the meeting this morning that Yasmani has one of the best framing numbers in years. And you can see, he gets his glove to every part of the strike zone and that's hard to do."
Grandal's ability to hit for power from either side of the plate and draw walks makes him one of the best all-around catchers in the game, and he'll try to improve his numbers after batting .230/.351/.422 with 8 home runs and 27 RBI in 46 games last season, his first with the Sox.
"I've always kind of evaluated myself after every year and then made adjustments from there," said Grandal, who joined the White Sox on a four-year, $73 million contract. "Last year, I did exactly the same thing. I knew I needed to work on my body a little bit more this offseason in order to make sure that injuries weren't there. I got that fixed. Hopefully. We'll see.
"Kind of went back to the drawing board, figured out what I needed to do in order to improve in different areas and we'll see what happens this year."