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Grandal starting to turn focus toward improving defense

Grandal starting to turn focus toward improving defense

Grandal starting to turn focus toward improving defense

SAN DIEGO -- Yasmani Grandal has had trouble sleeping. Instead of wasting time staring at the ceiling or watching late-night TV, the Padres catcher routinely reviews scouting DVDs on his next opponent. He logs a few hours a night in front of his flat screen, looking for clues to get the other team out.

The extra work in the video room, enhanced by an offseason's worth of catching drills, has turned Grandal into a standout defensive player. The same couldn't be said last season, when he was in the lineup for his bat as opposed to his glove.

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"I didn't like the way I played defensively last season," Grandal said. "This offseason, I made a point to make catching come first and let the hitting run its course."

That's why he spends so much time watching video. That's why he spent significant time on catching drills this offseason. He wanted to change his reputation as a purely offensive catcher. He wanted to be a complete player.

Since he couldn't swing a bat this offseason with strained ligaments in his left middle finger, Grandal didn't have a choice.

"I would spend 2-3 hours a day on different elements of the position, and I believe it helped me grow as a defensive player," Grandal said. "There are times when I'm at home and I can't sleep until 2 or 3 in the morning, and that's when I break down the video. That's the most productive use of my down time, because being a good defensive catcher is my number one responsibility."

His hard work has been recognized. The Padres starting rotation lauded Grandal's work and spoke highly of his commitment to catching. That's been proven in the win column too. The Padres are 10-3 in games he's started behind the plate, a short stint after serving a 50-game suspension for violating MLB's policy on performance enhancing drugs.

While Grandal has struggled offensively in that span -- he's hitting just .191 with three extra-base hits -- manager Bud Black has been impressed by his ability to separate offense from defense.

"He's been able to separate the offense from his defense," Black said. "His bat has gotten off to a slow start, but he hasn't let that affect his job behind the plate. His game calling has been outstanding, and he always seems to be in sync with the catcher. That's a big pat on the back to him."

Grandal did a little bit of everything on Saturday night. He called a quality start for Jason Marquis, and supported him with a three-run home run in the fourth inning.

"I've been making good swings, but I don't think the ball had been traveling as far," Grandal said. "When I made good contact, it seemed to be right at someone. I knew that it would turn eventually, and it was a relief to have it work out last night."

Scott Bair is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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