Graveman making strong case for A's rotation

Acquired from Blue Jays, right-hander lowers spring ERA to 0.93 with third outing

Graveman making strong case for A's rotation

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When the A's plucked right-hander Kendall Graveman from the Blue Jays organization in this winter's Josh Donaldson trade, Oakland manager Bob Melvin didn't know anything about him.

"When we got him? No, but I started doing some research," Melvin said Monday after the Dodgers came back with eight runs in the eighth inning to defeat his A's, 10-5, at Camelback Ranch.

Melvin knows a lot about the 24-year-old now. Graveman continued to make his bid for one of three spots open in the starting rotation behind Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir with 4 2/3 innings of scoreless, two-hit ball against many of the Dodgers' regulars.

"I'm having a great time," Graveman said. "This is a blast."

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Another pair of new A's -- veterans Ben Zobrist and Ike Davis -- weren't able to play Monday. Zobrist was scratched from the original lineup because of tightness under his left shoulder and might not play Tuesday against a Padres split-squad at Hohokam Stadium.

"It was a little stiff under his shoulder blade. I just wasn't going to mess with that," Melvin said of Zobrist.

Davis, who has been experiencing back spasms, was able to take batting practice at Hohokam but won't play until Wednesday at the earliest, according to Melvin.

"He's fine, but he's going to have to run tomorrow before we get him back in the lineup," Melvin said.

But Monday was all about the younger A's. In three starts this spring, Graveman has allowed a run on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings. His spring ERA dipped to 0.93, and keeping it below a run is not easy to do in the light and arid desert air. He pitches to contact and has a cutter and sinker that break over both edges of the plate, catcher Josh Phegley said.

"He's got a lot of movement on all of his pitches," said Phegley, who inherited the catching slot left open when Derek Norris was traded to San Diego and John Jaso was shipped to Tampa Bay in the deal for Zobrist. "It's tough to be back there when he's pitching."

Top Prospects: Graveman, OAK

Melvin said Graveman has been no surprise after the initial research.

"Not after I looked at his numbers," Melvin said. "He went all the way from A ball and did well in his short stint in the big leagues [in 2014]. All our metrics have him doing exactly what he's doing right now. I know he's happy to be here. He should be. We like him a lot."

Never underestimate the talent evaluators of the A's. Beane may be known for using metrics, but he also heavily relies on the opinions of his veteran scouts in the field.

Graveman knows he has a tremendous opportunity.

"It's a great opportunity for this organization with what we've got ahead of us," he said. "Billy Beane has put together a great roster here. Man, just the things he's done this offseason to strengthen this club. The fans should be excited. He's done a great job. This is an exciting time in this Oakland organization, and I'm proud to be a part of it."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.