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Nats off to franchise-best start

LOS ANGELES — Yasmani Grandal reached into his locker Saturday afternoon and pulled out a cardboard placard that measured about 11 inches by 15 inches. On the left, there was a list of individual words in Japanese, and on the right, there appeared to be a phrase.

The Los Angeles Dodgers catcher will work with pitcher Kenta Maeda for the first time in a game tonight, against the Giants and Jeff Samardzija on Sunday Night Baseball, and Grandal read aloud the words on the left: Japanese for fastball, changeup, slider and curveball. Grandal has worked to memorize all of this in case he needs to go to the mound midgame and offer a suggestion, without benefit of a translator. He knows what the phrase means, too, because he covered that with his right hand. "Don't look at that," he said, chuckling.

Grandal was supposed to catch Maeda in a spring training game late in camp, but he was unable to because of an injury to his right forearm. But Grandal did catch Maeda in the bullpen, and even in those short sessions, he got a feel for Maeda's personality, and his precision. The first 20 pitches, Grandal recalled, were "super off," with Maeda missing the location time and again, to the degree that Grandal began to wonder what was going on. "You'd be like, 'Who is this guy?'" Grandal said.

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