Graveman not giving up hope of returning

August 20th, 2020

SEATTLE -- hasn’t given up on pitching for the Mariners this season as he deals with a benign bone tumor in his spine, but the right-hander’s role may change if he is able to rejoin the club.

The 29-year-old has been a starter throughout his Major League career, but that could change if he wants to continue pitching with a cervical issue that has been lingering for the past two years and was initially discovered while he was working back from Tommy John surgery.

“He’s still working through a few things,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said Thursday. “He wants to see if there’s a way he can still continue to try and pitch this year, whether in a shorter role out of the bullpen a couple innings here or there.

“The thing he feels is once he starts getting tired and getting up in pitch count, that’s when it starts to bother him a little more. So he’s still trying to work through it. We love the guy and love having him around. He’s been a great influence in our clubhouse, but no definite decision has been made one way or the other.”

Graveman was placed on the 10-day injured list after the neck issue worsened during his second start with Seattle on Aug. 2. He spent several weeks pursuing medical options, but he was told that a surgical procedure would be difficult because of the location of the tumor.

The issue causes inflammation and soreness, but doctors told him it wouldn’t get worse if he continues to pitch. He returned to the mound during an intrasquad game on Monday at the alternate training site in Tacoma, Wash., and will continue working his way back toward whatever role is possible.

While Graveman said his location wasn’t great in his first time throwing off the mound in two weeks, his velocity was good and he left no doubt he wants to continue pitching.

“I’ve seen plenty of specialists. I’ve seen numerous doctors,” Graveman said on Monday. “There is a procedure that is a possibility, maybe something that later on down the road we’ll check into. But I’m just going out there competing with it, that’s the only thing right now that we can do and continue to work through it. The prayer and hope is doctors tell me this thing can go away with time, so that’s kind of where we’re at right now with it.”

Graveman looked extremely good in Spring Training and Summer Camp as the former A’s Opening Day starter returned from nearly a two-year recovery from Tommy John surgery and his mid-90s velocity could make him an interesting bullpen option.

Short takes
• First baseman Evan White was not in the lineup for Thursday’s series finale against the Dodgers after fouling a ball off his left knee and coming out of Wednesday’s game in the third inning. The Mariners are hopeful the rookie might be OK by Friday’s game with Texas, but it may take a few days for the deep bone bruise to heal.

• Right-handed reliever Erik Swanson was placed on the 10-day injured list prior to Thursday’s game with a right forearm strain. The 26-year-old had a blown save and loss in his last two outings, allowing four hits and six earned runs over one inning as his ERA ballooned to 15.19 in six appearances on the season. The IL move is retroactive to Aug. 17, the day after his previous outing.

• Veteran reliever Yoshihisa Hirano is close to joining the Mariners for the first time after being sidelined by COVID-19 during Summer Camp. Hirano had been throwing in Arizona the past few weeks and has now joined the alternate training site, but he will need to face hitters in an intrasquad situation before being considered for promotion to the 28-man roster, perhaps by this weekend.