24 Nov

handsome reward

A strong 2021 season has paid off for Kendall Graveman, the ex-Mississippi State star who reportedly has agreed to a 3-year, $24 million contract with the Chicago White Sox. Graveman put up a 1.77 ERA over 53 games last year split between Seattle and Houston. He allowed just two runs in 11 postseason innings for the Astros, who reached the World Series. Graveman, 31, converted from starter to reliever with the Mariners in 2020 after missing the 2019 season with Tommy John surgery. Drafted in the eighth round out of Starkville in 2013 by Toronto, he is a seven-year MLB vet. He’ll join a White Sox team that won the American League Central in 2021 and features Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn and Ocean Springs native Garrett Crochet on its pitching staff along with All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson, a former East Central Community College standout. USA Today Sports Weekly rates Graveman 29th among the available free agents this off-season. Also in the top 106 are Mississippians Corey Dickerson (64) and Mitch Moreland (104).

20 Oct

role player

Game 4 may have been a pivotal one in the American League Championship Series, and Mississippi State product Kendall Graveman played a pivotal role. Graveman threw two scoreless innings — the seventh and eighth — and got the win as Houston rallied past Boston 9-2 Tuesday night at Fenway Park to square the series at 2-2. Graveman was one of five Astros relievers who worked 7 2/3 shutout innings after starter Zack Greinke was pulled in the second inning. The two-inning stint was the longest for Graveman since he joined the Astros in a late July trade with Seattle. “I was mentally preparing myself to go three, honestly,” he told mlb.com. The Astros went to closer Ryan Pressly in the ninth after scoring seven runs in the top of the inning. Appearing in the postseason for the first time in his seven years in MLB, Graveman has been good: three scoreless innings in the ALCS and a 1.50 ERA in five appearances overall. The right-hander was a closer with Seattle (0.82 ERA, 4-0, 10 saves) but saw his role change to set-up man in Houston. He scuffled at times, posting a 3.13 ERA with three blown saves and seven holds in 23 games. He looked to be in top form on Tuesday. Strangely enough, the only batter to reach against Graveman was Hunter Renfroe, his former teammate at MSU, who drew a two-out walk in the eighth. It was just the second time they had faced each other in the big leagues; Graveman struck out Renfroe in that previous encounter. Renfroe, who had a monster season for the Red Sox, has had a quiet series (1-for-11 with four walks).

31 Jul

smooth moves

He didn’t want to leave Seattle, but Kendall Graveman made himself right at home in Houston’s bullpen on Friday night. In his Astros debut, the former Mississippi State standout retired all four batters he faced, striking out the side in the eighth inning, to help Houston beat San Francisco 9-6 in a clash of first-place teams. Graveman lowered his ERA to a ridiculous 0.79. He has yielded only 15 hits in 34 1/3 innings this season. He has four wins, 10 saves and five holds. MLB Network’s Tom Verducci called Houston’s acquisition of Graveman “a big-time move” and raved about his stuff, particularly the movement on his power sinker. Graveman was upset about leaving the Mariners, still a wild card contender in the American League, but with the Astros he’ll have a much more legitimate chance at making the World Series. P.S. A move up to Triple-A has gone smoothly for Ole Miss product Nick Fortes. A catcher now in his third pro season, Fortes is 5-for-11 with two home runs and five RBIs in three games at Jacksonville in Miami’s system. He was batting .251 with three homers in 57 games at Double-A Pensacola. … Bidding for a move up is ex-State star Justin Foscue, who hit his 11th home run Friday in 24 games at High-A Hickory. He was a 2020 draft pick by Texas. … Foscue’s former keystone partner in Starkville, Jordan Westburg, also homered Friday for High-A Aberdeen (Baltimore) and is batting .303 with seven bombs and 37 RBIs in 49 games. He began his first pro season in Low-A. … Ex-Bulldogs lefty Christian MacLeod has signed with Minnesota, becoming the last of the 12 2021 draft picks out of state schools to join a pro club. Former Jackson Prep star Will Warren, drafted by the New York Yankees out of Southeastern Louisiana, also has signed.

30 Apr

a good fit

Some consider moving from starter to reliever a demotion of sorts. Former Mississippi State star Kendall Graveman has made the switch with the Seattle Mariners and couldn’t be happier about it. “It’s been fun,” he recently told the Seattle Times. “The adrenaline’s a lot different. It’s a different ballgame coming out of the bullpen and I really don’t (miss starting). Mentality-wise, I really think I fit down there.” Numbers-wise, it also looks like a good fit. The 30-year-old right-hander picked up his third save – of both the season and his eight-year MLB career – by pitching the ninth inning Thursday to close out a 1-0 victory over Houston. The Astros were no-hit for 6 1/3 by Yusei Kikuchi. Graveman has been called on nine times by the Mariners and has yet to allow a run over 10 2/3 innings. He has yielded just two hits and two walks while fanning 12. He was 24-31 as a starter with an ERA well above 4.00 from 2015-2020. Graveman missed time last season, his first in Seattle, because of a benign bone tumor in his neck. He moved to the bullpen when he returned and has nailed down a leading role there in 2021. “He’s going out there and pumping 99 mile per hour sinkers, power sinkers,” M’s starter Justus Sheffield told the Seattle Times. “It’s a beautiful thing to watch.” … The Mariners (14-12) host the Los Angeles Angels (12-11) – Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Albert Pujols, et al. – this weekend. The Angels also have a Mississippi college product who’s thriving in a bullpen role: ex-Ole Miss star Mike Mayers. Mayers, a middling reliever in St. Louis most of his big league career, has blossomed with the Angels the past two seasons. He is 1-1 with a save and a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings this season. Ten of his 12 appearances have been scoreless.

18 Aug

soldiering on

Kendall Graveman, dealing with a benign bone tumor in the C6 part of his cervical spine, plans to rejoin the Seattle team in the near future, according to reports. The ex-Mississippi State star, who went on the injured list with “neck spasms” after two starts this season, has been taking medication for inflammation for a couple of years. He is putting off a surgical procedure. “So the prayer and the hope is that doctors tell me that this thing goes away with time,” he told mlb.com. “That’s kind of where we’re at right now with it.” Graveman, 29, a six-year veteran, is in his first year with the Mariners as he comes back from 2018 Tommy John surgery. He is 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA. He has resumed pitching at the team’s alternate training site.

28 Jul

one step forward

The pitching line from Monday’s game wasn’t pretty for Kendall Graveman: 4-plus innings, 6 hits, 3 walks, 7 runs (6 earned), 7 strikeouts. But, as Seattle manager Scott Servais told The Seattle Times, “I thought he threw the ball a lot better than what his line will look like. It was his first time out in 800 some days.” Indeed, just being healthy and back on a big league mound for the first time since May 2018 was a measure of success for Graveman, the Mississippi State alum who made his Mariners debut in an 8-5 loss at Houston. Graveman, 29 and entering his sixth MLB season, had Tommy John surgery in 2018 and made only a couple of minor league appearances in the Chicago Cubs’ system last summer. He signed with Seattle as a free agent in the off-season and reportedly had been sharp both in spring training and summer camp. After posting two scoreless innings Monday, he ran into trouble in a four-run third, giving up a three-run homer to Alex Bregman. Graveman was lifted after a fifth-inning homer by Jose Altuve, disappointed but not discouraged. “It was a blessing and a privilege to be back out there, but, man, I wanted the outcome to be better as I’m sure many people did,” he told The Seattle Times. Drafted out of MSU by Toronto in 2013, Graveman spent four years (2015-18) with Oakland, going 23-29 with a 4.38 ERA. Houston, defending American League champion, might not be the team you’d want to make your comeback against, but it won’t get any easier for Graveman. His next start will come next weekend against the A’s, another AL West power. P.S. Ex-Ole Miss star Bobby Wahl, who also last pitched in the majors in 2018, has made two appearances for Milwaukee to date. He got a one-pitch out vs. the Cubs last Friday, then yielded a homer in his one inning of work on Sunday.

26 Nov

opportunity knocks

Kendall Graveman, who last pitched in the majors in May of 2018, will get a comeback opportunity with the Seattle Mariners next spring. Ex-Mississippi State star Graveman has signed a $1.5 million contract (plus a 2021 option) with the M’s, who would appear to have openings in their rotation. Coming off 2018 Tommy John surgery, Graveman signed as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs last year but made just two minor league appearances. He became a free agent again when the Cubs didn’t pick up his 2020 option. Graveman, 29 next month, has a 23-29 career record with a 4.38 ERA. Drafted in the eighth round in 2013 by Toronto, he made his big league debut for the Blue Jays in 2014, then moved to Oakland in a trade the next year. He was the A’s opening day starter in 2017 and ’18. “His makeup is off the charts,” Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto told mlb.com.

12 Sep

helping hand

The South Bend Cubs got to use a “ringer” as their starting pitcher in Game 1 of the Midwest League Championship Series, and former Mississippi State standout Kendall Graveman gave them the type of performance they might have expected. Veteran big leaguer Graveman, on an injury rehab assignment for the Class A Cubs, worked 3 2/3 innings, allowing a run on three hits, and South Bend beat Clinton 3-1 on Wednesday night. Graveman, 28, made his fourth rehab start – each one at a different minor league level — as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery last summer. In 13 1/3 innings, the right-hander has a 2.03 ERA and 16 strikeouts. Graveman signed with Chicago as a free agent after being a fixture in Oakland’s rotation for most of the previous four seasons. P.S. Hot-hitting Corey Dickerson left Philadelphia’s game – a 3-1 loss — against Atlanta on Wednesday with a sore left foot that the Meridian Community College alum described as “pretty painful.” … Ex-State star Brandon Woodruff threw live batting practice for Milwaukee on Wednesday and the All-Star righty appears close to returning to the club’s rotation. The Brewers, smarting from the loss of MVP candidate Christian Yelich, won their sixth straight Wednesday to move into a tie with the fading Cubs for the second wild card spot in the National League.

03 Oct

breaks of game

The Oakland A’s plan to use a bunch of pitchers in tonight’s American League Wild Card Game against the New York Yankees. One who won’t see the mound is Kendall Graveman, the club’s opening day starter this year and in 2017. Ex-Mississippi State standout Graveman had Tommy John surgery in July; he may not pitch again until late in the 2019 season. “It does suck, it’s no fun, it stinks,” he told the San Francisco Examiner when his surgery was announced. “With the love I have for the game, it’s not easy, and it hurts right now — the guys are playing so well and I want to be out there competing with them.” It must be especially painful now, considering that in his previous three years with the A’s, they didn’t sniff the postseason, finishing dead last in the AL West each year. Graveman struggled at the start of this season – he was 1-5 with a 7.60 ERA in the big leagues – and was in the minors when his injury was diagnosed. (Oddly enough, his one MLB victory in 2018 was against the Yankees in May.) The 27-year-old righty also battled injuries in 2017, going 6-4, 4.19. He is 23-29, 4.38 for his career. P.S. Former Mississippi Braves Ryan Buchter and Cory Gearrin could be in the parade of relievers the A’s use tonight. Gearrin was in Mississippi in 2009, posting a 2.84 ERA in 20 appearances. Lefty Buchter passed through Pearl in 2012 and had a 1.31 ERA in 35 games. Both have been effective for the A’s this season. … The Yankees’ bullpen includes former State star Jonathan Holder. The Gulfport native had a 3.14 ERA in 60 games this year. Ole Miss alum Lance Lynn, primarily a starter this year, is also active.

22 Aug

standing tall

Amid the rubble of the Oakland A’s season, Kendall Graveman stands tall. The former Mississippi State right-hander, who tossed his first career shutout last Friday, is 8-2 with a 3.47 ERA over his last 15 starts. For the season, he is 9-8, 4.09 for an injury-riddled team that sits at 53-71 in the American League West. Graveman was a key contributor on State’s 2013 College World Series club, posting a 4-4 record and 2.81 ERA as a senior that year. Toronto picked him in the eighth round of the ’13 draft, and he blew through the minors to make his MLB debut in September of 2014. The Blue Jays then sent him to Oakland with three other players in the Josh Donaldson trade that off-season. Graveman’s 2015 season with the A’s was a bit uneven (6-9, 4.05) and 2016 got off to a wobbly start, as well. In mid-May, he was 1-6 with a 5.48 ERA. Then came the turnaround, which has included two wins against Houston, one against Baltimore and a complete-game W against Tampa Bay. And there is reason to believe the good times will continue for Graveman, a ground-ball pitcher who thrives on control. His shutout last week – a 98-pitch two-hitter against the Chicago White Sox — followed a phone conversation with his boyhood hero, Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, the ultimate craftsman. “I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was just asking him questions and he was very generous to talk to me for 15 or 20 minutes about the mental side of the game,” Graveman told the San Francisco Chronicle.