GLENDALE, Ariz. – Catching Kendall Graveman is no easy chore, and Josh Phegley was paying the ultimate compliment with the following quote about the A’s right-hander:
“It’s tough to be back there when he’s pitching.”
Graveman delivered his third consecutive impressive start Monday, spotting his entire repertoire to both sides of the plate and keeping opposing hitters -- and sometimes his catcher -- guessing pitch to pitch.
The result was 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. And though the A’s let a late-inning lead get wiped away in a 10-5 defeat, the positive takeaway is that Graveman continues a strong push for a spot in the rotation.
“I don’t think anyone looked real comfortable in the box” against him, said Phegley, slated to platoon with Stephen Vogt at catcher for Oakland. “He’ll sink it to both sides of the plate as well as cut it. As a hitter, you can’t expect one side to be sink or one side to be cut, because he has them both to either side. He’s a pretty effective guy.”
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In three Cactus League outings, Graveman has allowed just one earned run in 9 2/3 innings (0.93 ERA), with six hits, three strikeouts and three walks. He induced two ground-ball double plays Monday, always an encouraging sign for a guy who pitches to contact more than racks up strikeouts.
Graveman, 24, typically relies on his sinker and cutter, but he mixed in his changeup and breaking ball more Monday and was pleased he had success pitching inside as well.
“I think that was huge, to keep pounding the zone and get weak contact for the most part,” he said.
Graveman is putting a strong foot forward for one of three available rotation spots behind Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir. He won’t bite, however, when asked about his status in the competition. Graveman spread credit everywhere Monday – to Phegley, to center fielder Craig Gentry for hauling in Adrian Gonzalez’s drive to the wall in the fourth, even to general manager Billy Beane for putting together the roster.
But Graveman’s performance thus far is steering the spotlight toward him. He zipped through Toronto’s farm system last season – advancing from low A-ball all the way to the majors before the A’s acquired him in the Josh Donaldson trade the day after Thanksgiving.
Manager Bob Melvin was impressed with what he saw Monday from the Alabama native.
“He knows what he’s doing out there,” Melvin said. “Cutting it, sinking it. Off speed … he keeps the ball off the barrel. It’s what we expect out of him and that’s what he’s been doing.”