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2013 Draftee Kendall Graveman Enjoyed Opportunity in Lansing

2013 Draftee Kendall Graveman Enjoyed Opportunity in Lansing

January 19, 2014

While Kendall Graveman spent the early part of the 2013 pitching in the collegiate World Series (pictured above), he spent the latter part of the season with the Lansing Lugnuts. (photo credit: Emma Charpentier).

The Lansing Lugnuts’ welcomed right-handed pitcher Kendall Graveman to the rotation this past July. The former Mississippi State Bulldog came to the Midwest League already throwing 113 2/3 innings of work at the NCAA level, but that didn’t slow down the 23-year old from making an instant impact in professional baseball.

Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 8th round of the 2013 MLB draft, Graveman was excited for the opportunity to play professional baseball.

“It was an exciting time to get a call from a major league club like Toronto and for them to think so highly of me,” Graveman said. “To pick me where they did was an honor.”

Prior to the draft, Graveman pitched four seasons at Mississippi State where he spent time as a reliever and a starter. Beginning his collegiate journey in 2010, Graveman posted a 2-4 record and a 6.66 ERA in 50 innings of work. Command was a bit of an issue as a freshman as Graveman walked 32 batters while only striking out 21.

With that said, Graveman would put the past behind him as a sophomore as he came back with a strong 2011 season. He had a respectable second year, posting a 5-0 record and a 3.71 ERA in 53 1/3 innings of work. But for Graveman the ability to increase his strikeout total to 35 and drop his walks was one of his biggest accomplishments. He found the strike zone and became more consistent and controlled.

As a junior, Graveman transitioned to starting full time. The increased workload didn’t faze the Alabama native  as he continued to rack up strikeouts and lower his earned run average. In 2012, Graveman went 4-4 with a 2.81 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 89 2/3 innings of work.

His successful 2012 season caught the eye of pro scouts as the Miami Marlins drafted the Mississippi State standout in the 36th round of the 2012 MLB draft. The right-hander admitted that being drafted by Miami was a huge honor, but he decided to pass on the opportunity to play his senior season with the Bulldogs.

“There were a few reasons I didn’t sign with Miami. I knew Mississippi State was going to have a really good 2013 season. It was a veteran group of guys and I wanted to lead them to Omaha,” he said. “Another reason I didn’t sign was I wanted to get closer to finishing my degree and by going back I got within a few classes of finishing my Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. Being both a student and an athlete can make it tough getting all the classes in.”

After four years of pitching (starting and out of the bullpen) at Mississippi State, Graveman joined the Blue Jays organization after being drafted in the 8th round of the 2013 Draft.

Entering the 2013 season with high expectations, Graveman didn’t disappoint posting an 8-5 record, a 3.09 ERA, and 69 strikeouts in 113 2/3 innings of work at Mississippi State. A memorable year as the Bulldogs were able to reach the College World Series.

Unfortunately, Mississippi State fell to UCLA in the finals, a bittersweet moment for Graveman, but he remains high on his teammates that will still be on the team next year.

“We had a great year at Mississippi State. We had a lot of guys who performed really well throughout the whole season. Juniors and seniors on the team led the younger guys in the right direction that’s a good thing to see in any sport.”

“To get to Omaha and not win was bittersweet, because Mississippi State has never been that far in the tournament. The fans were pleased with the result, but it was tough on the players.”

“I know Mississippi State will be back obviously without me, but they’ll be back competing for a national title in the next few years.”

Quickly signing his professional contract, the Blue Jays organization decided Lansing would be the best fit for Graveman. In Lansing, Graveman’s innings were limited due to the workload he already put in at the NCAA level, but he still made 10 appearances posting a 1-3 record and a 4.31 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings of work in the Midwest League.

“It was a blessing to skip a few levels and come right to Lansing. I prayed that wherever I went it would be the right fit for me. Both Chad [Girodo] and I thought we were going to get sent to Vancouver and when they said Lansing it was a privilege for me.”

“I don’t doubt my ability at all, but it’s an honor to start right out in low-A baseball right after a college season.”

Graveman would pick up his first professional win on August 28th in a game at Lake County, a special moment for the right-hander.
“It felt good especially after nine tries,” Graveman said laughing. “It feels good to get wins, but if a win doesn’t go in my column I still need to go out there and help my team any way I can. For me it’s been tough, because I was on a pitch count so to get through the fifth inning at Lake County felt great.”

Giving us a scouting report on his game, Graveman shared the way he approaches each game as he prefers to pitch to contact rather than chase strikeouts. “I like to pitch to contact and get ground balls,” he said. “If I pitch to contact it takes me later into games than chasing strikeouts. It keeps the defense active and gives me good tempo for the next pitch.”

“Pitching to contact keeps the defense active because they have to stay on their toes more than if you’re going six or seven pitches into an at-bat. If you get contact in the first three pitches your chances of getting a great play from your defense increases greatly and the numbers show it.”

Commenting on the transition of going from college baseball to professional baseball, Graveman notices an increase in all his routines.
“In college you play on the weekends, but in pro ball you have a five-day rotation to prepare for. I have increased starts, increased bullpen throws. Obviously in college I threw my bullpen three or four days after a start, but in Lansing it’s the second day after a start,” he said. “You really have to be smart with your arm in pro ball. You have to know what you can and can’t do each day. You really have to communicate with the coaching staff and the strength and conditioning staff to let them know if you’re really sore one day so you can lower the workload for a day or I feel really good, let’s add a little more work today.”

“That’s the biggest difference and I’m glad I got to come to a full season environment to see that kind of atmosphere.”

In Lansing, Graveman enjoyed the opportunity of working with Lugnuts’ pitching coach Vince Horsman, as he enjoyed leanring from the former Major Leaguer.

“Vince [Horsman] has been great with me. He’s basically observing what kind of pitcher I am, but he has given me some pointers  and I can tell he’s a veteran guy. His baseball mind is sharp, he really knows what he is talking about and for me to be around somebody [like Vince] I’m going to pick their brain more than them picking mine. I’ve already asked him a bunch of questions in the short time I’ve been here, but that’s the kind of person I am. I’m always trying to learn something new.”

Coincidently, Horsman also commented on Graveman and spoke about the 2013 draftee’s  development and his transition from NCAA baseball to affiliate baseball.

“Kendall is making the transition from college ball to affiliate ball, he is learning all the nuances of bump plays and the way we like to do things. I feel he’s fine, I know he would like to pitch a little better, but he’s doing well and its fun teaching the new guys as they roll into the system.”

“I don’t feel coming from college to the Midwest League is a big jump. Kendall played in the college world series and that’s a high level of baseball right there. If you play at a four year university coming here isn’t that difficult.”

Another aspect Graveman enjoyed about his Lansing experience was meeting former major leaguer Tim Raines who made a trip to Lansing in August to teach base running skills.

“Tim was great we actually went and played golf together when he was here,” Graveman said smiling.”It was great picking his mind while we played 18 holes. We talked about what he went though in professional baseball and what helped him succeed both physically and mentally since he played a long time. To be around guys like him is great because they’re knowledgeable.”

“Tim doesn’t know just about being a positional player and hitter but pitching as well. He played the game for so long he had certain approaches at the plate for different pitchers.”

“I just small talked him while we played golf and it was a neat experience to be around players like him. It was great to see players we watched on TV and understand that they are down to earth and don’t want to be viewed as superstars for the most part. They just want to help us out.”

With the 2013 season completed, Graveman is looking forward to heading back to Mississippi State to complete a few classes and finish his Bachelor Degree in Mechanical Engineering. Additionally, the young pitcher is also looking for an off-season routine to use for the future.

“I will be using the lifting program assigned by the Blue Jays organization this off-season. I will probably do some long toss exercises starting in December. I have been talking to guys about what they do to stay in shape in the off-season and pretty soon I’ll have to pick something that works for me. This off-season will be a learning experience for me.”

Making an instant impact with the coaches and players in Lansing, Graveman only wants one thing from the experience.

“I hope 10 to 15 years down the road, the coaches and players I’ve had the opportunity to meet and play with will remember me as a good teammate. When you ask them about Kendall Graveman, they’ll say – he’s a stand-up, classy guy.”