Grandal is White Sox's No. 1 catcher, but backup job is up for grabs

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Texas Rangers' Brock Holt (16) is chased down the third base line by Chicago White Sox catcher Jonathan Lucroy, left, before being tagged out during the third inning of a spring training baseball game Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Phoenix.

    Texas Rangers' Brock Holt (16) is chased down the third base line by Chicago White Sox catcher Jonathan Lucroy, left, before being tagged out during the third inning of a spring training baseball game Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Phoenix. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/3/2021 7:09 PM

This is Tony La Russa's first spring training since 2011, but it's his 34th camp as a major-league manager.

La Russa has pretty much seen it all, and he's really been enjoying watching the White Sox's competition at catcher.

 

"It's a very deep catching situation, one of the deepest I've seen," La Russa said Wednesday before the Sox's 6-5 loss to the Royals in 6 innings.

Yasmani Grandal is No. 1 on the depth chart, but the established veteran is still sidelined after twisting his knee during a running drill last week.

La Russa said Grandal is improving but isn't likely to play in his first Cactus League game until early next week.

"Grandal is getting extra care and then going very carefully because it's early in the camp," La Russa said. "But he's making progress every day."

There is plenty of time for Grandal to get work before the April 1 season opener against the Angels in Anaheim, Calif.

The switch-hitter's absence also gives Zack Collins, Yermin Mercedes, Seby Zavala and nonroster invitee Jonathan Lucroy more opportunities to get on the field and make good impressions.

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Collins played in 27 games with the White Sox in 2019 and 9 games during last year's abbreviated season.

He hasn't shown much, hitting .167/.286/.314 with 3 home runs and 12 RBI while striking out 44 times in 120 plate appearances.

The Sox's first-round draft pick (No. 10 overall) in 2016, Collins is making a positive early impression on his new manager.

"Collins has looked really good," La Russa said.

In Wednesday's Cactus League game vs. Kansas City, the left-handed Collins was 2-for-3 with a solo home run to center field.

"When you don't play for six months or whatever you almost think, 'Did I lose power, what's going to go on now?'" Collins said. "But getting that first homer felt good, just competing at at-bats and trying to have the best at-bats possible and hit the ball hard every time."

La Russa said the White Sox are most likely carrying only two catchers on the major-league roster this season.

"I wouldn't say it's extra stress," Collins said. "I've dealt with it the last couple of years, competing for a job to be in the big leagues. It's good to create a competitive atmosphere on any team. We're trying our hardest out there and all trying to make each other better, and being competitive brings out the best in us."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Mercedes had 1 at-bat with the Sox in 2020 and is looking for more this season.

"Let's see what's going to happen," said the 28-year-old catcher, who was 2-for-3 with 2 RBI against Kansas City. "It's up to the team, coaches and everyone, they make the decisions. I don't know what's going to happen, but my goal is keep working hard and do the best I can do. Do my job, prepare and be ready."

Lucroy caught Lucas Giolito Tuesday and was 2-for-2 against the Rangers. After the 2018 season, he had disk replacement surgery in his neck and is finally healthy this spring.

"I'm going to go in there and play the best I can and whatever they see the fit as, that's not up for me to decide," Lucroy said. "That's up to Tony and the people up top, all the front-office guys. They'll figure all that stuff out, I'm not worried about that. I'm just going to go out and do my best, try to play as good as I can to make the team and help these pitchers get better and perform to the peak of their ability. That's it."

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