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Recovering Yasmani Grandal refuses to slow down

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- More confident than defiant, Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal refused to apologize for his style of play.

As the “injury-prone” label begins to dog him, Grandal said Friday that he will continue to give the game of baseball everything he has, even if it means more injuries and potentially more time on the disabled list.

“I play the sport hard,” Grandal said on the day that Dodgers pitchers and catchers reported to the desert. “I go hard 100 percent every day. At some point, you are bound to get hurt if you go 100 percent.”

In fact, Grandal is coming off shoulder surgery to repair an injury that significantly limited his offensive production in the second half of 2015. Before that, he missed significant time following a reconstructive knee surgery as a member of the San Diego Padres.

If you want to blame Grandal for those injuries, then he offers you to get a clue. His shoulder injury ultimately was the result of getting hit with a pitch in Philadelphia last season, and his knee injury in 2013 happened when his leg was twisted horribly on an Anthony Rendon slide at home plate.

“A lot of times I’ve been put as this guy who gets hurt all the time, where my injuries have been caused by something else and it hasn’t been my body breaking down,” he said. “It hasn’t been that I haven’t been healthy, it’s just one of those things.”

Grandal said he doesn’t expect to have any restrictions as he returns from surgery, adding that he would have been told by now if he was expected to take things slowly. Manager Dave Roberts confirmed that Grandal will have no restrictions as spring training begins.

“Talking to him [Thursday], he’s done a lot of catching work, swinging the bat,” Roberts said. “He feels great. So I think he’s kind of where he would expect to be at this time of year.”

The switch hitter has been swinging from both sides of the plate for at least three weeks now, with a mental issue left as the only one to overcome.

“There were certain spots I couldn’t really swing last year,” Grandal said. “Now I get to that spot and I’m a little hesitant. So it’s just getting over that mental block, and that happens to people who have had surgery before. It happened with me and my knee. I understand that now so it just takes some time.”

And what spot would that be exactly? Grandal admitted that inside pitches were particularly troubling. Opposing pitchers certainly figured it out.

Grandal batted .282 with a .526 slugging percentage in the first half, clubbing 14 home runs. In the second half, he batted .162 with a .218 OBP and two home runs.

“The goal for me last year, as soon as it happened and there were certain things I couldn’t do, was to look and say, ‘OK, what can I improve on to still help the team out?’” Grandal said. “That was on the opposite side of the field, defensive wise. I had to keep my mind in order to lead the pitching staff.

“I couldn’t really get into the hitting too much. I knew [the injury] would be there, I knew which pitches I could hit, I knew which pitches bothered me. I was still going to compete and do whatever I could to get on base, get a base hit or make good contact.”

Batting practice against live pitching is a little over a week away, and by then Grandal figures that he will close in on clearing that last mental hurdle. He certainly won’t back down.

“I’m a big believer that when you get home at night and you brush your teeth, you look at yourself in the mirror and you say, ‘OK, I gave 100 percent today,’” he said. “I’m happy with that. I can’t go in and give just 60 percent. I don’t think I can look at myself in the mirror. That’s the one thing I preach and the one thing I tell all the kids: Give 100 percent of what you have that day no matter what happens. If you give 100 percent there will be no reason to look back at it.”