MESA, Ariz. – Kendall Graveman’s first Cactus League outing is scheduled for Monday, and the A’s right-hander has a plan he’ll be looking to set in action.
Graveman’s goal is to become less predictable against right-handed hitters. To that end, Graveman tried working in his changeup against righties in Wednesday’s two-inning simulated game against a mixed lineup of Oakland’s major and minor leaguers.
He retired seven of the eight men he faced – the A’s made him get four outs in the second just to get his pitch count up – and got a thumbs-up from manager Bob Melvin for his work.
Graveman found moderate success as a rookie last season with his sinker and cutter, but he’d like to diversify his repertoire this year.
“If you look at the percentage of changeups I threw overall last year and how many I threw to righties, if in September someone was to look, he’d say ‘Hey, I could just neglect the changeup from Kendall if I’m a right-handed hitter,’” Graveman said. “So I have to at least throw it enough to wear they have to honor it.”
Graveman went 6-9 with a 4.05 ERA over 21 starts last season. There were smooth stretches and rough ones too, and when the right-hander was sent to Triple-A in late April, he needed to adjust his mental outlook as much as anything mechanically in his delivery.
“I learned it’s not easy to pitch in this league, but it’s possible,” Graveman said. “There were stretches mentally, especially early in the year, that I wasn’t where I needed to be. And I think that (experience) is something I can carry on in the future. When you go through a rough two starts, that it doesn’t snowball. I learned that having communication with catchers is huge, and I also learned that change of speeds is monumental in having success in this league.”
Graveman is fully recovered from the oblique injury that ended his rookie season in August. He came into camp weighing about 200 pounds, right where he was in 2015, but he dropped some body fat, and Melvin credited him for entering the spring in great shape.
Jesse Hahn threw the other portion of Wednesday’s two-inning game, giving up one run but generating ground balls as Graveman did, a good sign for two pitchers who rely a lot on their sinkers. If they come out of Wednesday’s outing well, they will each get four days of rest and pitch Monday against the Royals.
NOTEWORTHY: It won’t be the ‘A’ lineup from the A’s in Thursday’s Cactus League opener against the Angels in Tempe. Melvin doesn’t like to play his regulars three days in a row early in the exhibition season, and with home games Friday and Saturday, he’d like to have a lot of the bigger names in the lineup then.
Here’s the lineup for Thursday that got posted in the clubhouse: Burns CF, Coghlan 2B, Davis DH, Alonso 1B, Semien SS, Lambo LF, Muncy 3B, Maxwell C, Fuld RF; Surkamp LHP.
Melvin said Eric Surkamp would likely go a maximum of two innings with Marc Rzepczynski, Daniel Coulombe, Ryan Dull, R.J. Alvarez, Ryan Brasier and Ryan Doolittle also listed as available to pitch.
HEALTH UPDATE: Catcher Stephen Vogt (elbow surgery) went 0-for-3 against Graveman and Hahn, but it was a sign that Vogt continues to progress well, considering it was swinging the bat that bothered his elbow the most before surgery. The tentative timeline for him to play in games is mid-March, though Melvin mentioned the possibility of Vogt serving as a DH before then.
FAMILIAR FACE: Former A’s first baseman Daric Barton dropped by camp Wednesday with his two pit bulls, Tank and Bane, in tow. Barton, 30, spent last season playing in Toronto’s farm system but is currently unsigned. He said he’s hopeful of continuing his playing career.