Return to mound 'emotional' for Graveman

Crawford becomes 15th Mariners player to record two triples in single game

July 26th, 2020

It’s been 26 months since right-hander last stepped onto a Major League mound in a regular-season game and two years -- almost to the day -- since he underwent Tommy John surgery. He’s become a father since then, spent a year rehabbing in the Cubs' Minor League system and signed a free-agent deal with the Mariners on Nov. 26, 2019.

For the two-time Opening Day starter for the A’s, it’s been a long journey back. But that road will come full circle on Monday at 4:10 p.m. PT (live on MLB.TV), when he gets his first start for Seattle against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

“It’s going to be emotional for sure,” the 29-year-old Alabama native said. “Heck, I teared up when I made my first Arizona Rookie League [rehab] start a year ago. It’s just fun being out there, being able to compete. I’m blessed and privileged to be able to get out there and do it again.”

Graveman had mixed success during his four seasons with the A’s. He fired a two-hit shutout against the White Sox during a 10-win season in 2016, and he was the Opening Day starter in a pair of Oakland victories in ’17 and ’18. But his rookie season in ’15 was cut short by a left oblique injury, he started just 19 games in ’17 due to a strained right shoulder and he struggled through seven starts in ’18 before being shut down for the Tommy John surgery.

Graveman signed a free-agent deal with Seattle for one year at $1.5 million (which will pay $555,000 in this shortened season) with a $3.5 million team option for 2021, and he has looked like the best pitcher in Mariners camp much of the preseason, with his fastball consistently hitting 95-96 mph.

Graveman, who has a degree in mechanical engineering from Mississippi State, acknowledges he has matured considerably since his time with the A’s.

“I would say a lot, as a teammate, as a person,” he said. “Life has slowed down. Even off-the-field stuff. I feel like my relationship with my wife, I’ve had a daughter during this time, that’s just who I’ve become. Becoming a father. It’s little things like that off the field that help, I think, steer the direction on the field. It’s helped in my case.”

Graveman spent last season mostly in Arizona at the Cubs’ Spring Training facility, rehabbing his elbow and hanging out with young prospects just beginning their careers.

“For me, the passion for the game never left,” he said. “But I have rejuvenated desire. It’s fun for me right now.”

The biggest on-field change?

“The game has slowed down,” Graveman said. “Sometimes I would look back on my old self and say, the game would get sped up some. I’m not afraid to say it. Now I’m able to clear my mind and know this is not the end of the world if you fail and be afraid of failure. I can say there was times in the past where that was the case, pitching around contact.

“I just want to lean on these guys that play behind me and continue to compete the best I can. If I can do that, I can walk home with a smile on my face every time. Where I get caught up is if I don’t prep and I fail. As long as I’m preparing, I think it’s good. There’s a big change. It’s hard to put into words, but there has been a change.”

Triple the fun for J.P.
Shortstop tripled twice in his 3-for-4 effort in Saturday’s 7-2 loss, becoming the 15th player in Mariners history with two triples in one game and the first since Kyle Seager on June 2, 2014, against the Yankees.

Crawford now has 10 triples in his first 168 career games.

The other Mariners to have tripled twice are Larry Cox (1979), Spike Owen (‘83), Steve Henderson (‘83), Al Cowens (‘85), Danny Tartabull (‘86), Phil Bradley (‘87), Dave Valle (‘87), Edgar Martinez (‘92), Joey Cora (‘96), Mark McLemore (2001), Ichiro Suzuki (‘02), Carlos Guillen (‘03) and Brad Miller (’13).

Among that group, Ichiro wound up with the most career triples with 96 in 2,653 games, while Martinez -- the Hall of Famer -- had 15 in 2,055 games. The fewest in the group was Cox, a catcher, who totaled five triples in his 348-game MLB career.