OAKLAND -– Self-analysis is a strength of Kendall Graveman’s.
The A’s rookie starter can tell you what’s going right when he’s dealing. That was often the case during his dominant spring. And when the wheels come off, as they did in Thursday’s 10-1 loss to the Texas Rangers, Graveman remains a straight shooter.
“I didn’t locate well and they made me pay for it,” Graveman said. “I’ve gotta change speeds a little more. I’ve gotta locate better and give our team a chance to win, and I didn’t do that today.”
The right-hander said he didn’t feel over-anxious taking the mound for his first career start in the majors. But his mechanics were out of whack. Graveman said his arm slot was off, meaning he was getting under the ball. As a result, his pitches were floating up in the zone, rolling out the red carpet for Rangers hitters.
He was tagged for two homers and seven earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings Thursday afternoon at the Coliseum. This after posting an 0.36 spring ERA that was the lowest by a Cactus League pitcher, with enough innings to qualify, since records are available dating back to 2006.
[Instant Replay: Rangers rough up Graveman, A's blown out]
Throughout his exhibition outings, Graveman impressed with his maturity and intelligence in the way he attacked hitters. On Thursday, perhaps not surprisingly, he seemed to show the nerves that one might expect from a 24-year-old with just five relief appearances on his big league resume.
“He couldn’t slow himself down,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “We talked about it in the first inning. We went out there after the first couple hitters and said ‘Hey man, relax. Slow yourself down.’ He tried to, but I think today he was really excited.”
Graveman and fellow A’s starter Jesse Hahn are in the same boat, starting the season in a big league rotation for the first time. Each can expect to have their ups and downs.
Hahn’s stuff is considered more explosive – in theory it should allow him to get outs even if he doesn’t necessarily have his ‘A’ game. Graveman needs to be dialed in with his location, and if he’s not, his margin for error is smaller.
After watching Graveman buzz through lineups all spring, A’s reliever Tyler Clippard admitted it was odd to see him struggle a bit. But he didn’t express concern over the young righty.
“The way he threw the ball in the spring, I thought he was the best pitcher in the world,” Clippard said. “There was a lot of adrenaline for him (Thursday). When you’re a sinker ball guy, usually when you feel really good and have a lot of adrenaline, that sinker’s not down, and it was a little up. I’m sure he realizes that. These outings happen. It’s not too worrisome. He showed us what he’s all about this spring.”
Graveman said he was getting too much lateral movement on his pitches, and not enough north and south action. That was a result of his arm slot being too low.
“It’s something I’ve fought my whole career,” he said. “When my arm slot’s down, I’ve gotta get back on top of the baseball. I’ve gotta find a way to make an in-game adjustment and not wait until the bullpen the next week to make the adjustment.”
Echoing Clippard’s sentiment, Vogt didn’t come away expressing concern.
“Today’s a blip on the screen,” Vogt said, “a good learning lesson for him.”