Patrick Finley: To him, it's past ball

Catcher concentrating on future as 50-game suspension nears end
2013-05-23T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:32:08Z Patrick Finley: To him, it's past ballPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Yasmani Grandal wears baseball's scarlet letter. He knows some people will look at him different. He hopes his teammates won't.

But these labels can be hard to shake.

The catcher's promising debut in San Diego last year - he left Tucson after 56 games and hit .297 with eight homers and 36 RBIs in 192 big-league at-bats - turned sour in November. Grandal was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for elevated testosterone levels, and linked to a Miami clinic, Biogenesis, accused of distributing steroids to major- leaguers.

As Game 51 approaches, the 24-year-old is permitted to play 10 contests for Triple-A Tucson. His stint started Saturday.

He and the Padres return to Kino Stadium to start a home series Friday.

Grandal is eligible to return to San Diego on Tuesday, and hopes he'll get called up then. He figures to: Entering Wednesday's game, incumbent San Diego catcher Nick Hundley was 2 for 40 in May, with backup John Baker 3 for 21 this month.

When he returns, Grandal is ready to be taunted by fans Googling details of his bust on their phones.

"Nothing you can do," he told me this week on the phone from Omaha, where the Padres finish their road trip today.

He figures to be tested more.

"I got nothing to hide," he said.

And he's ready to face his big-league teammates, to whom he apologized in spring training.

"That was the hardest part, having to apologize to them," he said. "It happened at such an early point in the offseason that I think that was the last thing I had to do. I put everything behind me. …

"You just gotta be a man and man up to it. Stand up and speak from the heart and let them know that you're sorry.

"Hopefully they can forgive you."

Whether they have, is another question.

Earlier this month, Hundley, a former Arizona Wildcats standout, told U-T San Diego, "You want to talk about a guy who is unproven and had a good couple months on steroids, go ahead."

Grandal, who has since spoken to Hundley, wouldn't comment to me about the big-leaguer's comments.

He said his teammates "supported me and understood where I was coming from" when they spoke in the spring.

I asked if he thought it would be that way when he returned to San Diego.

"I haven't been back yet, but I hope," he said. "If not, you can always change somebody's mind with one swing of the bat.

"That's the beauty of baseball."

Grandal said he used substances only last year, his first with San Diego after being traded with three others for Mat Latos during the offseason.

In 2011 - split, but for four games, between High-A and Double-A - Grandal hit .305 average with 14 homers and 68 RBIs in 374 at-bats.

In 2012, between Tucson and San Diego, he hit .316 with 14 homers and 71 RBIs in 386 at-bats.

The Bakersfield Blaze ain't the San Diego Padres. Grandal's point to me, nonetheless, was that he's been consistent.

"You look at the numbers from the year before, you look at the numbers from last year, and there's nothing different," he said. "I think it might have been the worst mistake I could probably make."

I asked if he has something to prove now.

"Once you start trying to prove something, you get out of your game," he said. "There's always something in the back of my head telling me you need to keep on going and never settle."

Grandal spent the offseason unable to hit because of two inflamed tendons in his left middle finger. He concentrated on his defense near his Phoenix home, aided by Tucson manager Pat Murphy, before heading to extended spring training, and now to Triple-A.

"I've been waiting for this for a long time," he said of returning to games.

"Working with a negative can make for a better picture, I guess.

"If you take all the negative around you and you work with that - and put it into becoming a positive - I think, that's been the one thing that I can get out of it."

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4658. On Twitter @PatrickFinley.

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