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.

21 Apr

check and check

It had been a while since Kendall Graveman last posted a win. It had been a whole lot longer since he took a bat to home plate. The former Mississippi State standout now with the Oakland A’s did both at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night. Graveman beat New York for his first win since last July 4 – a span of 10 starts – and, because the A’s had to put their DH on the field, he batted for the first time since he was in high school in Alabama, eight years ago. He struck out against Nathan Eovaldi. What Graveman did on the bump made that AB totally irrelevant. The right-hander went 6 1/3 innings, allowing just three hits and a run with a career-best eight strikeouts in the 5-2 victory. Graveman is 1-1 with a 2.04 ERA in three starts for the A’s. Former Ole Miss star Chris Coghlan drove in the game-tying run, scored the go-ahead run and made a big defensive play at third base in the seventh inning. P.S. Also notching a big win on Wednesday was Ole Miss alum Drew Pomeranz, who struck out a career-high 10 in San Diego’s 8-2 decision against Pittsburgh. Lefty Pomeranz, 2-1 with a 2.04 ERA in his first season with the Padres, yielded four hits and an unearned run in 6 2/3 innings. … So far, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ idea of trying Jordan Schafer as a pitcher is working just fine. The former Mississippi Braves and big league outfielder, a left-hander, has a 0.00 ERA and six strikeouts over seven innings for Double-A Tulsa. He is a .228 career big league hitter.

12 Aug

when the going gets tough

There is an interesting story on the Oakland A’s page on mlb.com in which Kendall Graveman talks about persevering through some tough times at Mississippi State and again earlier this season when the A’s sent him to the minors. Well, the times look tough again for the rookie right-hander. He went up against the red-hot Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday and got burned in a 4-2 loss. Hurt by a couple of big errors, Graveman lasted just 4 2/3 innings, allowing five hits, a walk and four runs (two earned). His record dipped to 6-8. The last-place A’s are 0-6 in Graveman’s last six starts; he hasn’t won since July 4. Graveman’s ERA is a very respectable 3.89, and that’s even more impressive when you consider that it was 8.27 when the A’s demoted him to Triple-A after four starts in April. He went 5-2 in a nine-start stretch after his return in late May. Drafted in 2013 by Toronto, Graveman bolted through the minors and reached the big leagues last September. Oakland got him in the off-season trade that sent Josh Donaldson to the Jays, and Graveman won a job in the rotation in spring training. This current victory drought isn’t likely to get him down. … Times are also tough for ex-State star Tyler Moore, who is hitless in his last nine at-bats (all as a pinch hitter) and is batting just .203 for Washington, which is scuffling as a team. Moore’s last hit was on July 24, his last home run on June 12. He belted 10 homers in 156 at-bats in his debut season in 2012 but has just 12 over three seasons since. He seems due for a breakout. P.S. Tampa Bay sent former Itawamba Community College standout Desmond Jennings on another rehab assignment (see previous post), this one at Class A Port Charlotte.

08 Jun

not in the cards

Opened a random pack of baseball cards on Sunday and got a Kendall Graveman, who just happened to be pitching for Oakland. Good omen? Yes … and no. Graveman, the former Mississippi State standout, pitched great, taking a five-hit shutout into the eighth inning against Boston at Fenway Park. He yielded a leadoff home run to Rusney Castillo, left the game and then watched the A’s bullpen give up six more runs that led to a 7-4 loss. That’s some hard luck. Graveman, who was sent to the minors in late April with an 8.27 ERA, has pitched much better since his return. Over his last four starts, the right-hander has allowed six earned runs in 24 2/3 innings (a 2.55 ERA), cutting his season ERA to 4.83. His record is 3-2, though he could easily have a couple more wins. Graveman, drafted by Toronto in 2013, blew through four levels of the minors in 2014 and got a September call-up from the Blue Jays (and his picture on a trading card). He was traded to Oakland in the off-season as part of the Brett Lawrie-Josh Donaldson deal and made the A’s rotation in spring training. Whatever led to his early season struggles, he seems to have ironed it out. P.S. Joey Butler just keeps hitting for Tampa Bay. The former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College star from Pascagoula got a couple more hits on Sunday and is now batting .330 with four homers, 11 RBIs and 13 runs in 30 games. He is batting .357 over his last 15 games. Getting his first extended MLB playing time in his eighth pro season, the 29-year-old outfielder appears to have locked down a job with the Rays. Butler’s minor league numbers were always good (.294, 78 homers), but “to see it all come together here in the big leagues is pretty amazing,” he told mlb.com.