GLENDALE, Ariz. – Here are four takeaways from Wednesday’s White Sox Spring Training action.
Clearing the air
Kendall Graveman made a point of talking to manager Tony La Russa and first baseman José Abreu when he arrived at Spring Training this week, and there was a specific hit-by-pitch topic in mind. Graveman hit Abreu with a 3-2 pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning during Houston’s 10-1, Game 4 elimination of Chicago in the American League Division Series, drawing the ire of the White Sox manager.
A fired-up La Russa said postgame that the hit by pitch was intentional, protecting his team leader whom he greatly admires and who also was hit 22 times during the regular season. Carlos Rodón had hit Jose Altuve on a 1-0 count with one out in the third inning of that same game.
But Graveman cleared the air in Arizona.
“Yeah, well, I apologized to Abreu when I got here. I didn’t mean to hit him,” Graveman told the media during a post-workout interview Wednesday at Camelback Ranch. “I apologized to Tony. I said, ‘I didn’t mean to, Tony,’ and he said, ‘I realized that now. In the moment, I didn’t.’ So that was a pretty good little icebreaker.”
Abreu laughed and told Graveman he knew the pitch was unintentional.
“It was a good introduction,” Graveman said.
Abreu and La Russa closed the matter on Wednesday, as well.
“It’s OK. It’s fine right now,” a smiling Abreu said. “It’s my family now.”
“We’re going to room both of them together,” La Russa said with a wry smile, adding he thought Houston manager Dusty Baker had ordered the hit by pitch, but Baker strongly denied that idea.
This Spring Training marks Graveman’s second as a reliever after he made 78 starts for Oakland from 2015-18. But the right-hander doesn’t really view his work as starter or reliever.
“I feel like a big league pitcher, and it’s not changed really my mindset,” Graveman said. “Maybe I try to create a little more swing and miss out of the bullpen. I know I have a short stint when I’m out there.”
Graveman also adjusted his arsenal in the bullpen, where he posted a 1.77 ERA over 53 games with Seattle and Houston last season.
“When I became a reliever, I threw a slider and a curveball. ... I added to my arsenal and started throwing four-seams, too,” Graveman said. “But what it does is when I'm studying hitters, it gives me an opportunity to attack their weakness, and I feel like the pitches that I'm throwing, I'm able to command well enough and have enough confidence in them.
“Especially in the postseason when I was pitching against teams for a seven-game set, I could be almost two different guys when I went out there. If I could throw twos and four-seams, I can throw a curveball and a slider. One time in the postseason I even mixed in a changeup that I hadn't thrown in a while. That to me is a benefit I've had being a starter, and having that luxury of having the amount of pitches that I do.”
La Russa presented Thursday’s lineups for split-squad action with the Cubs.
At Glendale: José Rodriguez DH, Andrew Vaughn RF, Gavin Sheets 1B, Jake Burger 3B, Dwight Smith Jr. LF, Romy Gonzalez SS, Zack Remillard, 2B, Seby Zavala C, Yoelqui Céspedes CF, Wes Benjamin P.
At Mesa: Yermín Mercedes DH, Zack Collins C, Micker Adolfo LF, Blake Rutherford RF, Danny Mendick SS, Luis Mieses 1B, Yolbert Sanchez 2B, Oscar Colás CF, Bryan Ramos 3B, Kyle Kubat P.
Closer Liam Hendriks also will be pitching in Glendale.
Cautious but confident
Eloy Jiménez ruptured his left pectoral tendon making an ill-advised over-the-fence attempt for a home run at the end of Spring Training last March, costing him until July 26 in the regular season. But the left fielder won’t take a completely careful approach to his defensive play.
“Being smarter, but not stopping playing hard,” Jiménez said. “Because if I stop playing hard, I'm going to be a DH, and that's what I don't want. So I think I learned more about taking care of me, but [I'll be] playing hard like always.”
Jiménez hit .213 in September with two homers and seven RBIs, finishing with a .740 OPS, 10 homers and 37 RBIs.
“It was hard, I'm not going to lie. It was really hard,” Jiménez said. “Being hurt pretty much all year, then I came back and started doing good, then go back to [struggling]. But this is another year to grow. And I feel good.”