Yasmani Grandal ready to make his mark with Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- Roughly 22,000 people showed up for Saturday’s FanFest at Dodger Stadium, and the fans’ loudest cheers were for Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, with Vin Scully a close second and Tommy Lasorda, Adrian Gonzalez and Fernando Valenzuela roughly tied for third.

Without Clayton Kershaw, who stayed home in Texas to be with his wife and newborn baby, there was otherwise an absence of star power at the event.

A year earlier, Matt Kemp had electrified the FanFest crowd by promising a big bounce-back season following a disappointing, injury-ravaged 2013.

On Saturday, Yasmani Grandal, the man for whom the Dodgers traded Kemp, was practically anonymous wearing his No. 9 jersey.

Grandal said he doesn’t feel any heightened expectations after the Dodgers gave up Kemp, one of their most powerful bats and a marketing cog for the team. Days after the trade, the team had to hastily change a Kemp billboard just down the hill from their stadium at the corner of Elysian Park Avenue and Sunset Boulevard.

“No pressure at all,” Grandal said. “I want to keep doing the same thing I was doing in San Diego and try to help this team win. They say they needed a catcher. Hopefully, me and A.J. [Ellis] can take this team to a World Series. I think both teams got what they wanted.”

Grandal was playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic when he got a phone call from his agent alerting him that trade talks were heating up. Grandal said he was told five teams were interested in him, with the Dodgers emerging as the front-runners. The Dodgers traded Kemp and catcher Tim Federowicz to San Diego on Dec. 18 for Grandal and two minor leaguers.

The Dodgers new front office valued Grandal highly because of his ability to frame pitches, and he represented a significant offensive upgrade over Dodgers catchers, who collectively batted .181 and slugged .261 last season. Grandal has a career .763 OPS, and he’s a switch-hitter, which gives manager Don Mattingly better platoon options.

Ellis figures to catch primarily when the Dodgers are facing a left-handed pitcher or when Kershaw is pitching because of their strong relationship.

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