Athletics Swing Left in Meeting Up With ex-A's Starter Kendall Graveman

John Hickey

The first inning Sunday for Kendall Graveman should bring back some memories.

Graveman, the former Oakland starter who is trying to reboot his career in the Mariners rotation after spending more than 600 days away from pitching in big league games thanks to 2018’s Tommy John surgery, will face an A’s lineup in which the first four of the first five batters are all former teammates.

Marcus Semien, the leadoff man, and 3-4-5 hitters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and right fielder Mark Canha have all played behind Graveman during his time in green and gold. But center fielder Ramon Laureano, who is the No. 2 hitter, hasn’t, and neither have the 6-7-8-9 batters, Robbie Grossman, Seth Brown, Austin Allen and Tony Kemp.

It’s not that much of an issue for Graveman, who is delighted just to be back and pitching after a couple of years in the wilderness.

Talking with The News-Tribune in Tacoma, Graveman could barely disguise his pleasure at being able to start every fifth day.

“Man, I’m just blessed to be able to be out there,” he said. “It’s going to be very fun to compete with guys that are behind me,” he said. “I tell the guys before we go out, `I’m going to give you everything that I have, I just ask that you do the same in return.’”

This will be Graveman’s second start. Last Monday against the Astros, he was OK the first time through the Houston lineup. After that, they started hitting him. He was gone after four innings, having allowed seven runs (six earned) on six hits and three walks. He did strike out seven, hinting that he’s still got some life in his right shoulder.

Talking about Graveman before Sunday’s game, A’s manager Bob Melvin suggested it was going to be a challenge to go against him.

“Well, he’s healthy again, obviously, as hard as he’s been throwing,” Melvin said. “I think he touched 99 (mph) his last game, and he’s thrown consistently 95-96. So he’s healthy, and when he’s healthy, he’s good.

“He’s got good sink. He’s developed some other pitches, he throws a cutter, too, and we’re going to have to make him work. We’ve seen in the past when he’s been healthy, he can be very effective.”

Melvin’s lineup is one he hasn’t used in the first eight games. For one, Seth Brown is getting his first big league start as the DH. For another, the A’s will have four left-handed hitters – Olson, Brown, Allen and Kemp – as well as the switch-hitting Robbie Grossman.

In the past Graveman has been susceptible to left-handed hitters. Melvin says that may be less of an issue now, but he’s willing to see if the A’s can make it work.

“Kendall was always a guy that other teams would stack their lefties against,” the manager said. “He’s found some ways to combat that; it’s not as big a split anymore. We’ll see how far he goes.”

In his first time out, only one of the six hits Graveman gave up was to a left-handed batter. But the Astros’ regular lineup flexes lots of right-handed strength, and those righties were the ones who hurt him.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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