SAN FRANCISCO – Kendall Graveman and Jesse Hahn did away with all suspense this spring.
From early on in Cactus League games, it was apparent both pitchers were headed for spots in the A’s starting rotation. Graveman finished his exhibition season with a pristine 0.36 ERA. Hahn’s numbers weren’t as gaudy, but his electric stuff made him an easy pick as one of Oakland’s five starters.
So matter-of-fact were their victories in roster competition that it’s easy to forget how inexperienced this duo is as they prepare for their first regular season starts of 2015. For Graveman, Thursday’s outing against the Texas Rangers will be his first ever big league start.
“I try to keep the same mentality I had all spring,” Graveman said. “I’ve been pitching to big league hitters all spring. That’s something I try to build confidence off of. It’s something that, hey, the game doesn’t change just because these start to count. I still gotta go out there and do the same thing, try to pitch with as much confidence as I can.”
Graveman, 24, buzzed through lineups in the Cactus League, which made his final exhibition start Friday against the Giants an unusual one. He labored through a 30-pitch first inning that featured a three-run homer to center by Buster Posey. But the inning began to unravel because of errors by Marcus Semien and Eric Sogard that preceded the homer. Graveman issued three walks and wasn’t happy with his command, but he didn’t give up another run after the first and struck out a spring-best six in just four innings.
He made five relief appearances with Toronto in 2014, making a meteoric rise from low Single-A ball all the way to his major league debut in September. That’s not much experience to draw upon as he prepares for Thursday. But the A’s see a composed thinker on the mound, a guy who analyzes the game like a seasoned vet.
“I like to see the setup of hitters,” he said. “I like to watch them standing in the box -- if they’re trying to make adjustments against me. All these things I learned at Mississippi State, and I think it’s helped me for sure. Not to just go out and throw strikes, but to pitch with a purpose and learn how to set up a hitter.”
Hahn’s showing last season with San Diego suggests he’s ready for the responsibility of being Oakland’s No. 2 starter behind Sonny Gray. The 6-foot-5 right-hander went 7-4 with a 3.07 ERA in 14 appearances (12 starts), averaging 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. If Graveman gets the job done with the precision and location of his sinker and cutter, Hahn’s exploding fastball and 12-to-6 curve are more eye-catching at first glance.
“I was just hoping, coming into camp, that I’d be fighting for a spot in the rotation, wherever that be,” said Hahn, 25. “To earn that No. 2 spot is huge and big for my confidence. And I’m glad they have confidence in me to go out there and try to get a win for them.”
They have just 19 combined big league appearances under their belt, but A’s catcher Josh Phegley thinks Graveman and Hahn will acclimate just fine.
“I think, stuff-wise and demeanor, the way they attack hitters, they definitely have the makeup to get it done,” Phegley said. “They’ve got a couple older guys on staff they can follow. If they just roll like that and treat those games like they’re treating (spring training) games, they’ll have no problem.”
Hahn agreed with that point, saying he and Graveman have two good starters to pattern themselves after in Gray and Scott Kazmir.
“It’s nice to be able to watch Kaz and Sonny,” he said. “What their routine is, and how they go about their routine is gonna be helpful to me and Kendall throughout the year.”