5/21/2013 12:51 A.M. ET
Before return, Grandal working in Triple-A
Catcher looks to prepare for big leagues before return from suspension
By Daniel Hoppen / Special to MLB.com
When last season ended, Yasmani Grandal's performance was one of the more positive things to come out of the San Diego Padres' 2012 campaign. Part of the Mat Latos trade with Cincinnati, Grandal hit .297 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs in 60 games after his June 1 call-up. The catcher appeared to be a critical piece in the Pades' rebuilding strategy.
Those plans were delayed on Nov. 7 when Major League Baseball suspended Grandal for 50 games after he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. The suspension started at the beginning of his season and has relegated Grandal's season to mostly extended spring training appearances. On Saturday, Grandal joined the Triple-A Tucson Padres.
"We knew when it was going to come out, so we were just trying to get ready for it," Grandal said. "The Padres have given me great backup. My teammates have been great. I've got nothing to say about that. They've backed me up 100 percent."
One teammate's comments stirred up some controversy on May 8 when fellow catcher Nick Hundley told reporters, "You want to talk about a guy who is unproven and had a couple good months on steroids, go ahead."
Grandal declined to comment on Hundley's quote Monday. The two have reportedly spoken since and Hundley has said his words were taken out of context.
Grandal said that even if he hadn't been suspended, he likely wouldn't have been ready for the start of the season. He has been dealing with two inflamed tendons on his left side since the end of last season. The first swings he took all offseason came off a tee about a week before Spring Training began.
"Not being able to hit in the offseason takes a real mental block on you," Grandal said. "You want to hit and you want to work out and do all these things, but you can't. The one thing that I did the most was catch and try to get that up to my hitting ability. I think catching has been one of the things that has come along real well -- throwing, blocking, calling games. I think I did a pretty good job working on that in the offseason and it's shown."
Grandal said his time in extended spring training helped get his offense back in order after the injury healed, but the caliber of pitching he faced was just not the same. Since joining Tucson, he is 3-for-9 with an RBI and a run scored. He doubled and just missed a home run on a fly ball to center on Monday night.
Grandal's suspension officially ends May 28, but he isn't sure if he will return immediately. The Padres, 20th in the Majors in runs, could certainly use his offense. But right now, the catcher is most concerned with getting as many at-bats as he can with Tucson. When the call comes, he says he will be ready.
"I've got to get my work in first," Grandal said. "I'm trying to get as many at-bats as I can here and trying to get a feel for the game again at the upper levels. I think they're going to be enough for me to go up to the big leagues. Whether I go up on the 28th or not, that's all up to [San Diego general manager] Josh Byrnes, I guess. I'm just concentrating on getting at-bats down here."
Daniel Hoppen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.