Mariners notebook: Kendall Graveman may have an addition to his arsenal
Mariners starters have precious few innings in Summer Camp to get ready for the games that count, and Kendall Graveman made the most of his on Wednesday afternoon.
After cruising through the first two innings of the three-inning intrasquad game, he ran into a bump when he started to fatigue a little bit. Not concerned about the fatigue as he is still building up, he was grateful for the situation.
“I thought we did a good job, (catcher Austin) Nola and I, getting out of that jam with only one run scoring,” Graveman said. ‘That’s the positive of it is being able to pitch when your stuff is diminishing throughout a game. To be able to reach back and get two outs there and leave guys stranded, to me that’s more important than if I had cruised through the third inning. You like to get in those situations moving into a season because it’s going to happen.”
Getting out of a jam was not the only thing Graveman was working on. As he threw to hitters, the radar gun flashed velocities as high as 97 mph. We saw 96s on the board in his game against the Cubs in Mesa, Ariz., this spring but he dismissed that as being a little out of control with his sinker. The 96s we saw on Wednesday were a different pitch.
Graveman has been working on a four-seam fastball, and while the two-seamer has been his pitch (it’s accounted for nearly 60 percent of all pitches he has thrown), the four-seamer could become a valuable piece of his arsenal playing off his bread and butter pitch.
“Honestly throughout this quarantine is when I figured out the four-seam,” he said. “I’ve been working hard on it. I was pitching in some pickup games before I got here and one day in the bullpen it felt right and I just held onto that feeling, and I have been trying really hard to repeat that in my throwing programs and being really intentional with that.”
The work includes embracing some of the technology and data that is available to him, information he took more time with coming back from Tommy John surgery.
“I have been working really hard at trying to stay behind that pitch and create good backspin,” he said. “I’ve had two years of basically being anonymous to pitch and to learn, and I think that’s something that you are starting to see where the game goes now and the four-seam plays.”
If Graveman is able to take the pitch into the season, hitters won’t be able to just sit bottom of the zone with the sinker. He’s not looking to get away from the two-seam fastball but he sees the value of having a pitch he can throw up in the zone.
“When guys can take away a part of the plate or strike zone on you and know you are not going there, it makes their life easier,” he said. “I know who I am as a pitcher, I’m not going to stray from that. I know that the sinker is I feel like one of the best if not the best in baseball, so I am not going to go away completely from who I am but it makes that pitch, the sinker, much better when I can open up the strike zone.”
Graveman then paused and laughed.
“My dad, he’s probably going to watch this, he’s been telling me this for years, I just hadn’t figured it out. Now to be able to figure it out and learn where do I need to locate, which guys is it better to. Then it is about figuring out how to pitch and the pitchability of it. That’s just going to take some time and experience.”
Finally healthy for the first time in two years, that is work and experience Graveman looks forward to. And if the four-seamer plays the way he hopes it will, shutdown time may prove in the long run to be very valuable in terms of his game.
• Following the intrasquad game, the Mariners ran a series of drills on the field. While nobody in the press box saw exactly what happened, a few saw Mariners No. 2 prospect Julio Rodríguez exit the field with a trainer. On his Zoom interview with the media, utility player Tim Lopes said it appeared Rodríguez “dove forward and I think his wrist got caught under his body.” Rodríguez was slow in coming off the field with the trainer and he wasn’t protecting the wrist as he exited. We are not expecting word from the team until Thursday so for now it could be anything from he was simply shook up on the dive to something more serious.
• Dee Gordon was penciled in to play left field Wednesday but was a late scratch from the game. In his place: No. 92, Louis Boyd, who was announced as he ran out on the field. That caused some double takes as Louis Boyd is not on the Mariners’ 60-man roster because Louis Boyd is in camp as a coach. The 26-year-old Boyd has a good story. The Vancouver, British Columbia native was a 24th-round draft pick out of Arizona in 2017. He played two seasons in the Mariners organization, finishing at Modesto and coaching there the next season. During last season he was named manager of the Everett AquaSox, and was slated to continue in that post this year before the minor league season was canceled. Boyd played three innings in the field Wednesday but was not given an at-bat.
• Boyd was not the only one pitching in as the health and safety protocols limit the number of staff members available this season. Andy Bissell, who is a major league staff assistant, and Matt Snyder, who is an assistant on the minor league side, have also putting on the gear and helping in the bullpen. This is extremely important as manager Scott Servais wants to limit the extra work that the catchers do with such a short amount of time to get ready for the season. “Having guys that are really good helping out in the office and doing things like that but being able to help out on the field at this time is pretty beneficial for us and they have really enjoyed it,” Servais said.