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Padres C Grandal eyeing comeback from PED suspension, reconstructive knee surgery

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PEORIA, Ariz. - Yasmani Grandal has regained the trust of his teammates following a lengthy suspension.

Once he's able to trust his surgically-repaired right knee again, the San Diego Padres catcher is confident he can put a nightmare 2013 season behind him.

Grandal, best known before his suspension for homering from both sides of the plate in his first major league start in 2012, is well ahead of schedule in his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in July.

He's changed his batting stance — no more leg kick — to take pressure off the knee. He's catching bullpen sessions every other day and did some running in a straight line Thursday. He's set to run the bases Friday.

"It doesn't hurt," Grandal said. "It's just in certain spots it's weak, the strength is not there."

But the 25-year-old is determined to be ready for the March 30 opener against the Dodgers and join Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson with one of the fastest returns from ACL surgery.

"That was the model," Grandal said. "I want to be Adrian Peterson."

Grandal was hurt in a home-plate collision July 6, barely a month after he rejoined the Padres following a 50-game suspension for a positive test of elevated testosterone levels.

"Guys put their arms around Yazzy and understood that his apology was meaningful and we moved on," manager Bud Black said. "Yazzy integrated himself in spring training and came back to us in the middle of the summer as a — for lack of a better word — accepted member of our team."

Grandal is providing similar support for teammate Everth Cabrera. The shortstop was banned the final 50 games of last year for his ties to Biogenesis, the since closed Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes.

Grandal was also been named in the Biogenesis reports.

"He's the one guy I've been texting this off-season, just to get his mind right," Grandal said of Cabrera. "He's in a good spot and I know how hard it is to come off a suspension and start playing."

Grandal, who moved from Cuba to Miami when he was 9, was the 12th pick in the 2010 draft by Cincinnati. The Padres acquired him when in a trade that sent pitcher Mat Latos to the Reds after the 2011 season.

Grandal's impressive two-homer debut allowed him to eventually supplant Nick Hundley as San Diego's everyday catcher in 2012. He hit .297 with eight homers and 36 RBIs in 60 games.

But the suspension, injury and a .216 average in 28 games last year have left his 2014 prospects in question. Now Hundley is back as the starting catcher and Rene Rivera is also on the 40-man roster.

"If I'm not ready by the beginning of the season I'll go on the (disabled list) and we'll go from there," Grandal said. "Carrying three catchers, I don't think that's something smart. So if I'm not 100 per cent it's totally going to hurt the team."

Grandal, who has also volunteered to fill in at first base if needed, will be busy working on his new stance in spring training games while building strength in his knee. And he knows he'll continue to be heckled by opposing fans for his PED suspension.

"People are going to scream at you, but that's why it's called home-field advantage," Grandal said. "It doesn't really matter. It doesn't affect me. If anything, it kind of gets me going."

NOTES: Black is not worrying about P Alex Torres' absence due to a visa problem in Venezuela. "Starting pitchers need those six weeks. Relievers, not so much," Black said. . The Padres will wait until after MLB releases the specifics regarding the homeplate collision ban before working on it in spring training. "I think a lot of the instruction is going to be geared toward the runner," Black said, "what he can and cannot do."

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