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Hahn, Graveman team up to master changeup

MLB.com @JaneMLB

MESA, Ariz. -- If good health is at the top of their 2016 wish lists, A's right-handers Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman might consider a good changeup as their second most-wanted item.

Both label it a necessity this season. Hahn dropped his slider last summer after suffering a forearm strain, magnifying the effectiveness of his changeup to complement his fastball and curveball. Graveman hopes for his to be a putaway pitch, which could be key to his success.

MESA, Ariz. -- If good health is at the top of their 2016 wish lists, A's right-handers Jesse Hahn and Kendall Graveman might consider a good changeup as their second most-wanted item.

Both label it a necessity this season. Hahn dropped his slider last summer after suffering a forearm strain, magnifying the effectiveness of his changeup to complement his fastball and curveball. Graveman hopes for his to be a putaway pitch, which could be key to his success.

"I think that was one of the bigger things that kind of stood out last year, the small percentage that I threw it, especially to righties," Graveman said. "I think it'll be beneficial to me to be able to throw it more consistently."

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"If he can develop his changeup just a little bit more and make that more of a strike pitch or a putaway pitch, it's definitely going to add to his game," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "A lot of times last year, he would go to the sinker or cutter, and that different look with the changeup would be a big improvement for him."

Hahn and Graveman, who along with Chris Bassitt are expected to fill out the A's rotation behind Sonny Gray and Rich Hill, have been helping each other along in this process. As throwing partners, "we'll play catch together and bring it in 60, 75 feet and throw about 10, 15 changeups," Hahn said.

"We just keep throwing it over and over, and we'll be there to critique each other," he continued. "If it's a bad one, I'll tell him what he did wrong. If it's a good one, I'll give him confidence and say, 'Repeat that.' I've always thought he had a good changeup. I always thought I had a good changeup. But we just want to get better every day."

Graveman often utilized his changeup to get ahead of hitters last season but only secured five strikeouts in the 51 at-bats that ended with the pitch. He can also continue using it much like his sinker when attempting to generate a groundball.

"Especially against lefties, if you get them cheating out over the plate on his sinker and he's able to throw that changeup, he's going to get a lot more weak contact," Hahn said. "That's when you're going to see those rollover groundballs."

Though he already threw the changeup more often in 2015 than he did in any of his previous professional seasons, Hahn expects to up his own usage of it even more after ditching the slider -- an easy decision for the 26-year-old, who already had Tommy John surgery in 2010.

Sliders are known to increase a pitcher's chance of elbow injury.

"The changeup is going to be big, especially being a three-pitch guy," Hahn said. "I'm obviously fastball-heavy, so if you can throw something at the same arm angle where it looks like a fastball coming out of the hand, it can be really effective."

Hahn, who also has a devastating curveball in his pocket, went 6-6 with a 3.35 ERA in 16 starts in his debut season in Oakland before succumbing to season-ending injury. Graveman was able to make 21 starts over two stints, going 6-9 with a 4.05 ERA, but he also saw his season end prematurely because of a left oblique strain.

Graveman spent the offseason working on core strength, "so I don't have to deal with that issue again," he said. Hahn did the same, also focusing on lower-body strength, to alleviate stress on his pitching elbow. The end result was 20 added pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame.

"No matter what," he said, "I'm always going to be skinny, so it's all good weight. It's going to take a huge load off my arm.

"I was doing everything I could to be healthy this year. I knew I had to be healthy this year. I didn't want to miss another season. I think the mental approach toward it was a lot better this year. Positive thoughts bring positive outcomes for me."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

Oakland Athletics, Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn