Grandal geared up for playoffs, Collins hopes to claim Sox's No. 2 catcher's job

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago White Sox's Yasmani Grandal (24) watches his home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Chicago.

    Chicago White Sox's Yasmani Grandal (24) watches his home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, in Chicago.

 
 
Updated 9/15/2021 9:31 PM

In the 2005 playoffs, A.J. Pierzynski was the White Sox's catcher in every inning of every game but one.

That was the marathon Game 3 of the World Series against the Astros in Houston.

 

Before the Sox went on to beat the Astros 7-5 in 14 innings, Chris Widger replaced Pierzynski as part of a double switch in the ninth.

As the White Sox prepare for this season's playoff run, they have another workhorse catcher ready to go to the post and stay there: Yasmani Grandal.

"Obviously, he's a great player," Zack Collins said. "That's why he signed for what he signed for. And that's why he's had the success that he's had in the major leagues."

Less than a month after the 2019 season ended, the Sox signed Grandal to the largest contract in franchise history, $73 million over four years.

While sharing catching duties last season with another all-star, James McCann, Grandal made the most of the shortened schedule and homered in each of the first two playoff games at Oakland.

The White Sox were eliminated by the A's in Game 3 of the Wild Card Series, and McCann went on to join the Mets on a four-year, $40.6 million free-agent contract.

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Grandal had some knee issues this spring and walked a lot more than he hit over the first two months of the season.

After he started to heat up at the plate in June, the 32-year-old catcher tore a tendon in his left knee on July 6, had surgery and didn't return until Aug. 27.

In his first game back, Grandal hit 2 homers and had 8 RBI in a wild 17-13 win over the Cubs at Guaranteed Rate Field.

He's been an offensive force since coming back, and Grandal has reached base safely in 30 straight games after his run-scoring single in the sixth inning against the Angels on Wednesday night.

Healthy and locked in, Grandal is set up for a big postseason.

"When I first signed here, I said I don't like to lose," said Grandal, who is heading to the playoffs for the seventh straight year. "Whether I'm on a rehab start or I don't really care where I'm at, I don't like to lose. I'm very competitive and I'm going to do whatever it takes."

The Sox's backup catcher for October remains up in the air.

Collins was sent down to Class AAA Charlotte when Grandal came off the injured list in late August, but Seby Zavala didn't seize the opportunity and lock up the job.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After a 1-for-22 slump dropped his batting average to .183, Zavala was optioned to Charlotte on Tuesday. Collins returned and is the White Sox's No. 2 catcher again.

The Sox's first-round pick in the 2016 draft will try making a good impression over the final two-plus weeks of the regular season and earn a spot on the playoff roster.

"It would mean everything," Collins said. "It's what we've worked for the whole year, to get to the postseason and give ourselves a chance to win it all. This is a great team and we've had a lot of guys step up for us this year and it would be great to be part of it."

Zavala is the better defensive catcher, so Collins will try to hike his .202 batting average when he gets back in the starting lineup, likely Thursday afternoon against Los Angeles.

"Helping the team win in any way that I can, whether I call a great game and we put up a zero on their side and we win 1-0 or I hit a double to score 2 runs, it really doesn't matter," Collins said. "Do anything that I can to help the team win every time. That kind of takes the attention away from, 'Did I get a hit? Did I get 2 hits? Did my average stay above .200?' Stuff like that."

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