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Mariners notebook: Kendall Graveman looks strong in 1st live BP outing

Kendall Graveman joined the Mariners after recovering from Tommy John surgery. (Getty)

It was a shortened workout Thursday for the Mariners but a very important one for Kendall Graveman, who threw his first live batting practice of Summer Camp as he looks to come back from Tommy John surgery.

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Graveman was able to get just two starts before spring training shut down, but he was reassured by what he saw in Arizona. His pitches and velocity were there and the arm felt good. Just what he needed to see before his workouts were limited to work close to home in Alabama with his trainer, who had converted his detached garage to a gym.

“I felt healthy but to go out there and prove that the ball was going to come out the same as before surgery if not a little better, I took a lot of confidence from that,” Graveman said.

Graveman said he felt the familiar building up of fatigue Thursday as he threw 40 pitches, but he was otherwise pleased with his stuff and how the fastball came out of his hand.

“Kendall was really good,” said Mariners first baseman Daniel Vogelbach, who faced him during the BP session. “He makes the ball move both ways, he’s competitive. He pitches with an attitude. He was impressive today. I’m looking forward to watching him go to work every fifth or sixth day.”

In order to get to those starts, Graveman had to come to terms like everyone else in the Mariners clubhouses with what baseball was attempting to do and what it would take to play the game in a pandemic. It has been a process that started at home as they were learning about the plans and protocols, and it has progressed to the clubhouses and fields as they make adjustments to their new baseball lives.

“I think everyone, if they were being honest, their first reaction would be, ‘Man this is a lot. Is it possible?’ Then you start having conversations with guys – it’s gonna look different. If you come in here with the unrealistic expectation that it’s not going to look and feel different this year then you are going to be in for a rude awakening. I know we have done a real good job in this clubhouse of guys really understanding it looks different, there’s no use in complaining and trying to not abide by the protocol because we want to play baseball.

“I think the feeling around this clubhouse is the passion that guys want to play the game. We just love playing baseball and we understand that to play this game this year we are going to have to abide by these rules, not only that but to keep people safe.”

Players are still adjusting not only to wearing masks and keeping distance but completely new work schedules in shorter time frames. Keeping people safe involves players letting each other know when they have broken a protocol. Graveman says this has not been a problem for the Mariners.

“Guys have been very respectful in policing each other,” he said. “We’ve always policed ourselves in the game of baseball, this is just another way to continue do that. The veteran guys here are doing such a good job and those young guys no matter are looking up to see what myself and others are doing, and if we can do that the right way then it is just a trickle-down effect. Skip, the front office, all the people have done a really great job of doing it also. We are still going to be ourselves, our personalities, but we are going to continue to invest in each other and do what we have to do to play.”

Graveman has waited much longer than the three-month shutdown most others in the clubhouse have had to endure for a return to big league play. It has been over two years since he has pitched in an MLB game and the prospect of being less than three weeks away from making his return added a tinge of giddiness to his virtual interview with the media Thursday.

“I’m very excited, I can’t hide it,” he admitted. “I love this game, I have a passion for this game. I’m ready to pitch. I feel I am a big league pitcher, I feel I can get people out still, I feel like I can help a team win. For me it’s been driving me nuts not to be able to play for two years so it’s an exciting time for me to be able to get out there and pitch.”

Player-coach

Mariners manager Scott Servais has talked about J.P. Crawford carrying himself a little different in this camp and taking on more of a leadership role, which is something he feels is important for a middle infielder. On his weekly visit with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto made this observation as well.

“The guy that I have seen since we have been here over this last week who has a very different feel is J.P. Crawford,” Dipoto said. “J.P. has been working with the afternoon group that includes a lot of the younger players. One of my most enjoyable moments was watching an infield drill and having J.P. Crawford stop the drill and walk over after a ground ball and go through (Mariners infield coach) Perry Hill’s program with (2020 draft pick) Tyler Keenan. J.P. just stopped his defensive work and went over and took on the role of coach with a player who is experiencing professional baseball for the first time. I thought that was remarkable.”

Expect a larger piece on Crawford in the near future on 710Sports.com.

Mariners notes

• Julio Rodriguez, who has not been in camp thus far, has apparently been cleared to join the group as he was on the field before today’s workout playing catch with Jarred Kelenic.

• Logan Gilbert and Brandon Williamson, neither of which are projected to be a part of the Mariners’ 30-man roster, will get the starts in Saturday’s intrasquad game.

“They need their developmental innings,” said manager Scott Servais. “Whether they are ready to pitch in the big leagues for us this year or not and if they are ready to handle the load, we will give it to them.”

• MLB has released the 2021 schedule. All 30 teams will open April 1 and the Mariners will do so at home in an interleague matchup against the Giants.

• A reminder that Friday’s Mariners intrasquad game will be broadcast live on 710 ESPN Seattle starting at 2:30 p.m. Rick Rizzs and Aaron Goldsmith will have the play-by-play.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

Dipoto: Kelenic impressing, but M’s plan to ‘move slowly’ on his debut