CINCINNATI -- Danny Graves was sitting comfortably in front of his corner locker in the Reds' clubhouse at Great American Ball Park the other day, discussing the team's decision to designate D'Angelo Jimenez for assignment.
Citing Jimenez's unpopularity with teammates and his poor statistics on the field, Graves said he fully supported and understood the move.
"It's part of baseball," he said. "I'll be on my way out, one of these days. If you can't contribute, why would they keep you around?"
On Monday, the Reds decided Graves, in his ninth season with the club, wasn't contributing to their level of expectations, and he was let go.
Just as they had with Jimenez three days earlier, the Reds designated Graves for assignment, giving them 10 days to trade, release or outright him to the Minors. Left-hander Randy Keisler was brought up from Triple-A Louisville to fill Graves' spot on the roster.
"At this point in time, Danny's overall performance during the '05 season has been unsatisfactory and unacceptable, and just not consistent with the standards that we've come to expect in the Reds organization," general manager Dan O'Brien said. "It's an exceedingly difficult decision for us."
On many levels.
Not only was the 31-year-old Graves, who is the Reds' all-time leader with 182 saves, popular with his teammates and one of the veteran leaders on the club, he was also making $6.25 million this season.
Though Graves and the team had a mutual option for the '06 campaign, this was believed to be his last season with the Reds. Unless the team finds a trade for him in the next 10 days, they will be forced to eat what remains of his contract, one of the largest on the team.
But O'Brien and manager Dave Miley said this was a decision that had to be made, regardless of finances.
Graves had gone 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA and 10 saves in 20 appearances this season. He was in the middle of a particularly rough month of May, in which he had compiled an 11.00 ERA in 10 appearances, including a 30.38 ERA in his last three games.
"Quite honestly, it became a confidence factor with myself and the staff putting him in certain situations," Miley said. "Danny's confidence was shaken. I know [pitching coach] Don Gullett has tried to work with Danny, but we just haven't seen the same sinker we're accustomed to seeing. The ball's been up on most occasions."
Graves said after Sunday's game that he had no problems with confidence and that he felt fine physically. But in the wake of the decision to get rid of him, Graves said he wished the team would have had his arm checked out.
Danny Graves / P
Weight: 185 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"All of a sudden, they just gave up on me," he said. "Not once did they look to see if my health was OK or why my mechanics were off. But that's how the business works. That's why I'll never be a front-office guy."
Both O'Brien and Miley stressed that the move was purely baseball related, though Graves' sometimes-dicey relationship with fans had reached a low point over the weekend.
After giving up five ninth-inning runs in a 9-2 loss to the Indians on Sunday, Graves was booed heartily. He was then seen making an obscene gesture to a fan in the Diamond Club seats from the Reds' dugout.
Graves said he had talked with chief operating officer John Allen earlier in the day about putting out a public apology for his behavior.
That just added to the shock he felt to be let go.
"The stuff with the fan has to be a part of it," Graves said.
O'Brien deflected questions about the incident.
"The bottom line is this was about Danny's overall performance, and obviously there had been a deterioration of that ongoing," O'Brien said. "And that was the principle ingredient in this decision."
It's a decision that sent shockwaves throughout the Reds' clubhouse. Several players voiced their displeasure with the move, citing Graves' commitment to the organization -- both on the field through his willingness to take the ball in any situation and off the field through his charity work.
In 2003, he accepted a reassignment into the starting rotation, despite his preference for the bullpen. Graves also hosted underprivileged children at Sunday home games as part of his "Gravy's Train" ticket program.
Given his dedication to the team, Graves said he was surprised the Reds didn't try using him in a different role out of the bullpen before cutting him.
Miley countered that he had used Graves in two non-save situations in the past week, bringing him in during the eighth inning of a 10-6 loss to the Mets on Wednesday and the ninth inning of Sunday's game.
Both outings were disasters for Graves, who gave up four runs to the Mets and five to the Tribe.
"We tried to get him some work out there, but we just didn't see the things we needed to see," Miley said.
And so Graves' words of just a couple days earlier rang true, as the organization he called home for so long bid him an early adieu.
"I don't see how you give up on a guy who's been here this long," Graves said. "But I'm not the boss. I just work here."
On Monday, his work for the Reds came to a surprising end.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.