Right-hander overcame uneven start to college, Major League careers
By Trevor Hass
OAKLAND -- Kendall Graveman was homesick. He thought about transferring from Mississippi State. He even thought about quitting baseball forever.
"I was probably a day or two away from just packing up and heading home," Graveman said. "Do I even want to play baseball? Do I even like it anymore? Or am I just doing it because?"
MSU went on to win only six of 30 games in the Southeastern Conference in 2010, Graveman's freshman year. He finished the season with a 7.02 ERA and grew frustrated with himself and the situation.
Gary Graveman, his father, remembers one particular outing in which his son didn't make it out of the first inning against South Carolina.
"That was probably the most discouraged I've ever seen him in baseball up until that point," Gary Graveman said.
Little did Kendall Graveman know that his struggles were simply the first bump on his road to success. He posted a 5-0 record and a 3.65 ERA his sophomore season.
College was when Graveman learned how to be patient, a lesson the A's right-hander has carried with him to this day. Sometimes when he starts to get impatient, he looks back at that period and thinks about where he'd be if he had quit.
On Saturday Dec. 8, 2012, 13 days before his 22nd birthday, Graveman flew to Philadelphia with his parents to have sports hernia surgery that he had been putting off for months. He played had Fall ball at MSU, but the injury was gradually worsening, and he knew he had to temporarily put pitching aside to fully recover.
"I finally got to the point where I was like, 'Man, I'm breaking down, I'm not pitching as well. I need to go have this fixed,'" Graveman said.
Graveman thought he would just be sidelined for a few weeks, but the recovery took months. During that time, he spoke with his roommate, who had been through injuries of his own and advised Graveman to take it slowly.
So Graveman did, and he was pitching again, fully healthy, by February 2013. He was selected in the eighth round of the MLB Draft that year by Toronto. Graveman remained in the Blue Jays' organization -- making his Major League debut as a September callup in '14 -- until he was dealt to the A's in the Josh Donaldson deal before the '15 season.
Graveman started 2015 in Oakland's rotation, but the poor outings piled up quickly. Eight runs allowed against the Rangers in his season debut. Three surrendered in three innings against the Angels. Six given up against the Astros.
After four April starts, Graveman was sent down to Triple-A Nashville, but he had stumbled before, and he knew how to fix it.
"It was similar," Graveman said. "I talked to some friends. What was the difference? I just reflected back to Mississippi State, my freshman year. I felt the same way here the first four starts."
Graveman believes that trying to rush success can lead to trouble. It takes time.
"You want it to happen so soon, and you want to be the guy," Graveman said. "You want to come up and help the team win right away, but when I got demoted, I had to reflect back, 'Hey, I moved so quick, I have to be patient in the times I'm not doing well.'"
Graveman, who was recalled from Nashville on May 23, didn't allow more than three runs in any of his next nine starts, while going at least six innings in eight of them. And he solidified his spot in one of baseball's best rotations.
Since the beginning of May, Graveman is 5-5 with a 3.06 ERA.
Off the field, Graveman shows just as much heart and drive. In college, he balanced a mechanical engineering degree with being a Division 1 athlete, while also helping peers with special needs.
"He has a heart for that," his mother, Sharon, said.
In overcoming uncertainty, injury and a rough start to his career in Oakland, Graveman has exhibited the patience he learned in college. And he's sure glad he stuck with baseball.
"He just keeps clawing and fighting and scratching, and [he] does whatever is necessary to be successful," Gary Graveman said.
Trevor Hass is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.