MESA, Ariz. — As good as Kendall Graveman was on the mound Saturday, the best evidence of how much he’s developed came in his postgame comments.
The A’s right-hander talked matter-of-factly about his sterling outing in a 2-1 victory against the San Diego Padres. Graveman retired 17 of 19 batters he faced over six innings, and it wasn’t until the sixth that he was forced to throw a pitch from the stretch.
If ever there was a sign that he deserves his first Opening Night start, it came Saturday as he struck out six and allowed just two hits with no walks. The only blemish was a solo homer in the third from former A’s farmhand Dusty Coleman.
“Solo home runs don’t get you beat a lot of times in this game,” Graveman said. “What gets you beat is you walk a guy, a guy gets a hit, and then the homer comes. If we can limit damage there and make him hit the first pitch, a lot of times the odds are in my favor.”
Listen to him dissect an outing, and it’s apparent the 26-year-old Graveman now expects himself to be as efficient as he was Saturday. In an Oakland rotation that will be young and quite short on major league experience, especially while Sonny Gray is sidelined, Graveman has established himself as the veteran anchor of the staff.
And though manager Bob Melvin is holding out on naming his Opening Night starter, it’s obvious who will receive the honor.
“In spring games, I’ll alert him who the (dangerous) base runners are and he already knows,” Melvin said. “He’s doing some scouting before he goes out there. Each and every year he’s been here, he’s gotten more serious about his preparation, and obviously his stuff’s really good.”
The other sign of Graveman being dialed in — Saturday’s time of game clocked in at a lightning-quick 2 hours, 15 minutes. The right-hander contributed greatly to that, inducing early contact and working quickly, which the defenders behind him love.
“I think it really is the way I want to pitch,” he said. “‘Hey, let’s get the ball, let’s go.’”