MLB

Rangers-Athletics Preview

It was just another play when Kendall Graveman allowed a run-scoring fielder's choice in the top of the third inning on March 11. But it ended up being the only one on which the Oakland right-hander allowed an earned run this spring.

He hasn't yet made the Athletics forget about Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija, but he'll try to carry that success into his first major league start Thursday and give Oakland a third impressive pitching performance in the finale of a four-game home set with the Texas Rangers.

"It'll be my first start in the big leagues, something I'm looking forward to," Graveman told MLB's official website. "Something you look forward to your whole life. I'm definitely ready to pitch in front of our home crowd and get out there and compete once again."

After that win over Cleveland nearly a month ago, Graveman went the remaining 20 1-3 innings of exhibition baseball without being charged with an earned run, finishing the spring with a 3-1 record and 0.36 ERA while limiting opponents to a .141 batting average.

The 24-year-old was acquired from Toronto in the November deal that sent Josh Donaldson out of Oakland. He pitched 4 2-3 relief innings for the Blue Jays a season ago and posted a 3.86 ERA and 0.86 WHIP.

Graveman is up against another 24-year-old, though Nick Martinez has 24 big league starts under his belt. The right-hander completed his rookie season with a 5-12 record and 4.55 ERA in 29 games, and he's likely entering the season with some confidence after posting a 2-2 record and 2.29 ERA and .214 opponent batting average in his last six starts.

Still, he was no guarantee to be included in the rotation but won a spot by going 2-0 with a 3.94 ERA in three starts and two relief efforts this spring.

"We saw in spring training what everybody saw last year," manager Jeff Banister said. "He pitches with his fastball, with command of his secondary pitches, plus the overall athleticism and pitchability."

He saw plenty of Oakland as a rookie, going 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA and .203 OBA in three starts and a long-relief appearance. A's second baseman Eric Sogard is 0 for 6 in their matchups.

The A's (2-1) have taken two of the first three in the series and outscored Texas 19-3 with Wednesday's 10-0 victory featuring plenty of offense from a quartet of newcomers. First baseman Mark Canha went 3 for 5 with two doubles and four RBIs in his major league debut, while fellow rookie Tyler Ladendorf was 1 for 3 with a triple and two RBIs.

Brett Lawrie was also 3 for 5 with a double after striking out four times on Tuesday, while fellow newcomer Billy Butler was 2 for 4 and has hit safely in each game with Oakland. Cody Ross had an RBI single and drove in two runs in his club debut after arriving in Oakland not long before the game.

"It was just a fun game all around," Ross said. "A lot of young guys who swing really hard and they're fun to watch."

On the mound, the A's have already posted two shutouts while limiting the Rangers to a .130 average. Whether that's due mostly to elite pitching or terrible hitting is still up in the air. Cleanup hitter Adrian Beltre is 0 for 11 to start the season, and dating to last season, Texas has been shut out in three of four games.

The Rangers have still won eight of 12 in Oakland dating to the start of last season.

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