OAKLAND — After having his rookie season end prematurely due to injury last year, it’s important to Kendall Graveman that he crosses the finish line in strong fashion this season.
The right-hander suffered a rare stumble Saturday as his command deserted him and the Mariners knocked him around for a career-high eight earned runs in a 14-3 rout of the A’s.
Seattle broke through for two runs in the first — no opponent had scored off Graveman in the first inning since late May. But it was a four-run third inning, during which he walked two of his first three hitters, that had him kicking himself.
“Lead it off with a walk, then I walk (Robinson) Cano on a 3-2 pitch,” Graveman said. “You don’t walk those two guys, and they don’t score four. They may get you for one or two, but your team still feels like they’re in it. I think that was the key to the game right there was those couple walks.”
But in the same breath, Graveman was talking of turning the page.
“I’ve learned in the past you can’t dwell on this,” he said. “You gotta put it in the past and continue to work.”
He’s slated for three more starts this season. And though Graveman, at 168 innings, has already eclipsed his previous career high in innings as a professional, there’s no thought of shutting him down or skipping him for a start.
To be sure, the A’s will monitor him closely. They’re going to a six-man rotation to lighten the load on their starters over the final three weeks, and manager Bob Melvin said they may tweak the schedule to give Graveman an extra day of rest here or there.
But in an injury-ravaged season where the A’s have turned to 14 different starting pitchers, Graveman is the only man from the season-opening rotation to have taken his turn every fifth day. He takes that seriously.
“The goal going into the season was to get to 180-plus innings,” he said. “… Just to prove I can go through September healthy. Last year I had the little hiccup with the oblique injury (which ended his season in August). But just to continue to battle and stay in the weight room, stay healthy for the next 3-4 starts is gonna be key.”
The A’s have lost 11 of their past 12 to the Mariners in Oakland, and they need to win Sunday behind right-hander Raul Alcantara — making just his second major league start — to avoid a weekend sweep.
One thing that did go right Saturday: A three-hit day from rookie third baseman Ryon Healy, who drilled a two-run homer and has gone deep eight times in 51 games since being called up at the start of the second half. He’s hitting .290 and, most important to Melvin, is the intelligence he’s shown against major league pitching.
“He’s been here long enough now where teams are making adjustments to him and he’s continuing to make the adjustments himself,” Melvin said. “He’s certainly a guy we’re looking for next year to be a factor and play a lot.”
But at what position?
The A’s have a big-time third base prospect at Triple-A in Matt Chapman, a player the A’s believe can possibly develop into a Gold Glover. When he’s ready to play every day in the majors, Healy may have to shift elsewhere. Asked about that, Melvin said it’s not an issue to ponder until Chapman arrives. But the manager did mention Healy has past experience at first base and could also be a DH option.
Healy knows that at either corner infield spot, he’s expected to hit for power. Entering this season, he knew that’s something he had to demonstrate he could do.
“It was a lot of physical and mental adjustments,” Healy said. “Being a singles hitter as a first and third baseman, DH, whatever I was in the minor leagues, it wasn’t gonna play at this level. So I knew I had to start selling out earlier in counts to maybe get that mistake and try to drive it instead of shooting a single to right field. There’s a time and place for both.”