Athletics

Strong favorite to start opener, Graveman makes quick work of Padres in win

Strong favorite to start opener, Graveman makes quick work of Padres in win

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.’”

 

A's free agent signing anniversary: Starting pitcher Rich Hill

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AP

A's free agent signing anniversary: Starting pitcher Rich Hill

Three years ago today, the A's signed free agent left-hander Rich Hill to a one-year, $6 million deal.

Hill was 35 at the time and hadn't pitched more than 100 innings since 2007, due in large part to injuries. But the veteran pitched brilliantly for the A's in 2016, going 9-3 with a 2.25 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 14 starts.

The A's fell out of contention that year and traded Hill to the Dodgers, along with outfielder Josh Reddick, in exchange for Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas, and Grant Holmes. Hill finished the 2016 season with a 12-5 record and 2.12 ERA.

Not even Billy Beane could have expected the Hill signing to work out as well as it did. The veteran southpaw found a fountain of youth, finally managing to stay healthy for an entire season. Hill has continued his success in Los Angeles the last two seasons, and even now at the age of 38 is a valuable starter in the Dodgers' rotation.

[RELATED: Rich Hill feel-good story]

Even if the Hill signing hadn't worked out for the A's, it was a low-risk, high-reward move. For just one year and $6 million, it was worth taking a chance, knowing they could always move him at the trade deadline, which they ended up doing anyway.

The A's will again look to add starting pitching this offseason and hope to find another under-the-radar starter like Hill. A one-year contract will be preferred, but even a two-year deal could make sense if the price is right.

Another takeaway from the Hill signing is that sometimes age is just a number. Look at the success Edwin Jackson had in Oakland as a 35-year-old. Since the A's already have a surplus of young pitching talent nearing the Major League level, they really just need a couple of veterans to bring stability to the rotation for the next season or two.

We'll see if Beane and David Forst can work their magic again.

MLB Hot Stove: James Paxton acquired by Yankees for three prospects

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AP

MLB Hot Stove: James Paxton acquired by Yankees for three prospects

The Hot Stove is lighting up.

The Yankees have acquired starting pitcher James Paxton from the Mariners for three prospects: Yankees No. 1 pitching prospect Justus Sheffield, outfielder Don-Thompson Williams and right-handed pitcher and Erik Swanson.

He will join a rotation that includes Luis Severino, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka. Not bad.

And what does that mean for Bay Area teams? Well -- the A's get a slight confidence boost knowing Seattle has one less threat in the American League West. Which is good considering the lefty was throwing his career-best 11.68 K/9 rating in 2018 . His ERA spiked slightly, but he had an insane amount of power he was throwing to last season. But that didn't stop him from tossing a no-hitter on May 8, becoming the first Canadian pitcher to do so.

Oh, and an eagle landed on him, too:

Pretty sure no other pitcher can say that.