While the Los Angeles Dodgers managed to improve their health by season’s end, catcher Yasmani Grandal has continued to battle a left shoulder issue that’s adversely affected his performance at the plate.
Starting Games 2 and 3 of the National League Division Series against the New York Mets, Grandal is 1-for-8 with two RBIs and four strikeouts. He had a noticeable grimace after coming up empty on swing during his last at-bat in Game 3, though only said the pain was something he’d need to manage.
However, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly didn’t paint a rosy picture in terms of Grandal’s health heading into Thursday’s winner-take-all Game 5.
“Yas is maybe a little bit more on the 50-50 line, depending on once he tests the swing and what he’s going to be able to do,” Mattingly said on a conference call on Wednesday.
“I don’t think catching’s going to be any kind of an issue. It’s just a matter of, is he going to be able to swing the bat pain free and just allow him to do what he’s capable of doing.” With Zack Greinke taking the hill for the Dodgers, and the Mets starting right-hander Jacob deGrom, Grandal normally would be a lock to start behind the plate.
Although his health is in question, the Dodgers haven’t yet considered replacing him on their NLDS roster. “I don’t think it would be, but I guess it’s a possibility if we get there tomorrow and he absolutely can’t lift his arm,” Mattingly said.
“I know Stan Conte was there [Wednesday] who has been talking with Yasmani. He feels good [Wednesday]. His range of motion is better. I think he expects that there’s a pretty good chance of him being able to play [Thursday], so that kind of tells me that I don’t think that we’ll be doing that, but obviously that could change. If he gets there and takes a few swings and can’t do anything at all.”
While Greinke typically worked with Grandal during the regular season (27 of 33 starts), the right-hander doled out praise for both the 26-year-old catcher and Ellis. “They both have different strengths. I think I’ve pitched equally to either one,” Greinke said.
“A.J.’s probably the best pitch caller and working with a pitcher on what’s working and stuff similar to that in the game. And Yas works really well with me, and his physical skills and baseball skills are as good as anyone in the game, with framing and blocking and throwing. So they both have some strengths.”
Grandal slashed a lowly .162/.280/.218, with just a .237 wOBA and 49 wRC+ during the second half of the season. Meanwhile, Ellis trended in the opposite direction post-All-Star break, batting .255/.376/.459, with a .367 wOBA and 137 wRC+.