PEORIA, Ariz. -- Kendall Graveman last stepped on a Major League mound on May 11, 2018, in a winning effort at Yankee Stadium. Since then, he has undergone Tommy John surgery, been a part of three different organizations and yet still believes he's coming off the best season of his career.
The 2019 season, from a statistical standpoint, was a wash for Graveman. But from a personal one, it was the best that the Mariners’ right-hander has had in professional baseball.
That doesn’t mean that Graveman, who signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Mariners that includes a 2021 club option -- isn't eager to go.
“Going back to rehab, that was the best season of my life,” Graveman said. “It was a season where I didn’t throw a pitch in the big leagues. I didn’t get an out in the big leagues. I didn’t win a game in the big leagues. But it was the best season because I learned more about who I was as a person. I grew in my relationship with my wife and my daughter. I was able to be around, and those things are way more important to me in measuring success than anything I can do on the field.
“I’m tired of just throwing bullpens. I’m ready to face hitters,” Graveman said. “I feel like my stuff has gotten a lot better from right before I got injured, and now to be able to take it [forward] afterward, I’m excited with where it’s at.”
Graveman threw another bullpen session on Monday, continuing his strenuous trek back to a big league rubber. He spent 2019 in the Cubs' organization, refining the intricacies of his motion and repertoire, while taking a deeper dive into data that he had previously not been privy to.
During 2016 -- his lone full season -- Graveman relied heavily on his sinker. He threw the pitch 62.3% of the time that year, and it appears that ’20 will feature more of the same.
“The heavy reliance on the sinker is going to be there. The location of the sinker is something that is vitally important to the success of my game. It always has been and it always will be,” Graveman said.
But a previously underutilized pitch, his changeup, could also come to the forefront. Graveman threw it just 7.5% of the time in 2016, but he spoke about it becoming another weapon in his arsenal that he developed during rehab -- one that he plans to deploy to both right- and left-handed batters.
More than one year removed from Tommy John, Graveman -- who has two career Opening Day starts under his belt with Oakland -- is entering an important season with Seattle.
“It is a big year. It’s a big year for him,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen so far. We've just got to keep him healthy, got to keep him going.”
This seemingly perfect storm of health, fit and opportunity appears to be coming together all at once during Spring Training.
“He’s been a great fit for us so far in the clubhouse and in our culture here because he’s not afraid to speak up,” Servais said.
“Just looking at the talent that’s coming here to Seattle, man, it’s exciting,” Graveman said. “I’m a builder. I like to build stuff. So, to try to come here and create a culture and build, and also get myself playing back in the big leagues -- it’s been 18 months -- I think it all personifies what I was looking for. I feel this is the perfect fit.”