Graveman showing total control in A's rotation
ARLINGTON -- It's been a tale of two seasons for A's right-hander Kendall Graveman, who has quietly excelled in each of his starting assignments since his return from Triple-A Nashville following an ugly first month as a big league starter.
After limiting the Rangers to two runs on eight hits over seven-plus innings in an 8-2 victory on Wednesday night, Graveman has a 2.31 ERA in seven starts dating to May 23, when he was promoted for his second stint with Oakland.
Graveman's first, spanning four starts, resulted in an 8.27 ERA.
"It's the guy we saw in Spring Training, he just needed a little break after a few starts," manager Bob Melvin said. "He went down there and made use of his time, which is good to see. He didn't go down there and hang his head. He was motivated to come back, pitched well there, and he hasn't missed a beat. To get us into the eighth on a hot night like tonight was key with the bullpen we had to use last night."
Graveman, who was raised in Alabama and played at Mississippi State, relishes the heat.
"I grew up in this," he said. "For me to get back in the humidity I think helps, gives it a little more sink, a little more action."
The right-hander was in control from the start, and with plenty of run support to boot. The A's scored eight runs over their first two innings, after plating a combined five runs in Graveman's previous three starts.
Graveman faced just one over the minimum through his first four innings and, after allowing two runs in the fifth, struck out the side to work around a pair of baserunners in the sixth. Graveman entered the eighth at 86 pitches, but he was pulled after boarding each of his first two batters in favor of right-hander Edward Mujica, who escaped the jam unscathed.
"I think it's just about keeping a good pace out there and allowing us to put up some runs for him," said Brett Lawrie, who hit a grand slam in a five-run first. "It gives him confidence when he can go out there knowing he's got a lead. He can throw strikes and not really have to nibble, he can pound the zone."
"That helps you relax and to be able to have confidence to throw the fastball early in the count and try to get ahead of people to go deeper in ballgames," said Graveman, who has completed seven innings in each of his last four starts. "I think there's a few adjustments we've made to get deeper into games, and I think it's also a mental thing, just to be able to go out there in the fifth or sixth and say, 'Hey, I need to go one or two more.'
"That's one of the biggest things, and communication with the catchers helps. Throughout the middle of the game, saying, 'Hey, what can we do to help me go deeper in the game?'"