If you know Kendall Graveman’s past, then you know there is no way to dislike the guy. He’s a role model and a clear example of persistence. Despite the fact that Graveman might have had plenty of reasons to stop believing, he didn’t give up. Of course, that pays off at some point, and it did for the new Astros’ reliever.
Graveman —who received a signing bonus of only $5.000— wasn’t even a bullpen arm when he began his MLB career. He was an average starter for the Oakland A’s from 2015 to 2018, a span in which he registered 78 outings. But when he was building up a career as a member of the Athletics’ rotation, everything fell apart for him.
In 2018, he began the season with a 1-5 record and a 7.60 ERA, which caused his demotion to Triple-A. Weeks later, in July, Graveman underwent Tommy John Surgery and was let go by Oakland after the season.
He was picked up by the Cubs that year and spent his rehab with Chicago. When he came back from the IL, the righty pitched twice around the Cubs’ farm system and became a free agent after the season ended.
In November 2019, the Mariners signed him to a one-year deal and Graveman made the 2020 Opening Day roster after looking solid in Spring Training. Almost a month later, Graveman was diagnosed with a benign bone tumor in his cervical spine. Another low blow to his faith.
But baseball, as life does, gives you many opportunities. Graveman came back stronger than before and, because of the tumor, he was converted into a reliever. And there’s the biggest turnaround of his career.
Now 30 years old, Graveman is one of the most dominant relievers of 2021. He was brilliant closing games for the Mariners before being acquired by the Astros to set things up for closer Ryan Pressly.
Graveman has been outstanding for the whole year, allowing only three earned runs across 35 appearances (38.1 innings) for a 0.70 ERA. In fact, the Alabama native carries a streak of 17 games without allowing a single earned run, which began on June 22 with Seattle and has continued with the Astros. Over that span, he’s struck out 22 hitters and allowed only seven hits (six singles).
Heck! Graveman hasn’t even surrendered an extra-base hit since July 2 despite facing teams such as the Yankees, the Angels, the Athletics, the Giants, the Dodgers, and even the Astros. That’s pretty impressive for a guy that wasn’t a full-time reliever until this year.
Graveman owns a powerful sinker-slider combination in his arsenal. Those two pitches have combined this year to give him 34 of his 42 strikeouts, and opponents have only registered one extra-base hit off those weapons (home run).
Graveman has developed into a lethal hurler that makes his rivals chase at a 31.8 percent rate and gets grounders in the 58.1 percent of the time.
So far for the Astros in five appearances, he’s recorded three holds and pitched 5 1⁄3 scoreless frames of two hits, no walks, and eight strikeouts.
Even though his contract will expire after the end of the season, I’m glad to see him wear an Astros uniform.