Catching up with A's starter Brandon McCarthy

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Catching up with A's starter Brandon McCarthy

PROGRAMMING NOTE: For the full interview with Brandon McCarthy and all the news from A's camp -- including Bob Melvin's message to pitchers and catchers -- tune in to SportsNet Central tonight at 9, 11 and midnight.

PHOENIX -- A's starter Brandon McCarthy is one of the smartest guys in the game, but once he stopped thinking about what he "had to do" on the mound, and just did what he knows how to do, the results were off the charts.

McCarthy finished 2011 with career highs in wins (9), starts (25), complete games (5), innings pitched (170 23)and strikeouts (123). His strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 4.92 set an A's record.

We caught up with the right-hander in the dugout at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Wednesday.

RELATED: Brandon McCarthy ready for leadership role

Q: Is there a difference in your preperation, knowing your role this year vs. last year trying to make the rotation?
MCCARTHY: To be honest, there is no difference whatsoever. Last year, my focus was doing everything had to do each day, and then that'd show up when I'd go out and pitch. And it's the same thing now. Where you throw in the rotation or what your situation is... I mean there's little things you're always working on, but they don't take over the bigger picture. It's just focus on what I have to do to become a better pitcher, and when I get into the game let that take care of itself.

Q: What was the difference maker for you last year that fueled your success?MCCARTHY: Most of the changes I had made the year before. I had finally become comfortable, everything was where I wanted it to be. I was just able to get into a routine where I knew what I was doing each day. There wasn't a lot of guess work. I wasn't trying to do new things. It was just literally, take what I have and throw with it. So, I was able to gain confidence as the year went a long, and settle into the pitcher that I wanted to be. As in the past I kept trying to search.

Graveman takes to leadership role while Gray is sidelined

Graveman takes to leadership role while Gray is sidelined

MESA, Ariz. — Kendall Graveman feels comfortable with the leadership role that comes with being the A’s Opening Night starter, but he pointed out how all the starters will carry the load together.

“I told BoMel this morning when he told me, I said ‘I’m the No. 1 starter for Opening Night, but then whoever is the second guy is the No. 1 starter for us the next night,’ and that’s the way we have to go about it to be successful,” Graveman said Thursday afternoon.

That’s a message that Graveman says he’s already trying to spread to Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton, the starters who will follow him in the rotation. Oakland’s final two rotation spots are up for grabs.

With Sonny Gray sidelined by injury for what’s expected to be most of April, Graveman — with all of 52 major league starts under his belt — becomes the veteran leader of the A’s staff in the interim. Manager Bob Melvin gave Graveman the official word Thursday morning that he would take the ball April 3 against the Angels at the Coliseum. But shortly after Gray went down with a strained lat muscle March 7, Melvin approached Graveman about being his likely Opening Night guy.

It’s a natural fit. Graveman went 10-11 with a 4.11 ERA last season, and while those aren’t eye-catching numbers, they don’t tell the story of how valuable he was as the A’s lost starter after starter to injury.

Graveman has improved his mental preparation and his physical conditioning since coming over from Toronto in the Josh Donaldson trade. He’s become a meticulous studier to get ready for his starts. He’s picked the brain of veterans such as Gray and Barry Zito, who he played alongside with Triple-A Nashville for part of 2015.

And, not to be overlooked, his stuff and pitch arsenal have improved since he first arrived to the A’s. Though he’s a sinkerballer who relies more on location than velocity, the A’s clocked Graveman as high as 98 miles per hour on the radar gun in his last start.

“He’s kind of on a mission to be one of those guys that pitches at top of the rotation for many years to come,” Melvin said.

A's name Kendall Graveman 2017 Opening Day starter

A's name Kendall Graveman 2017 Opening Day starter

MESA, Ariz. -- Kendall Graveman was announced as the A's Opening Night starter, confirmation of a move that had become obvious the more that spring training progressed.

With Sonny Gray set to begin the season on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle, Graveman is the veteran presence in the rotation and coming off the best 2016 season of any Oakland starter.

His performance this spring only strengthened his status. In his last outing, he threw six innings and faced just one batter over the minimum in that span.

Manager Bob Melvin said Sean Manaea will be the No. 2 starter followed by Jharel Cotton. The last two rotation spots are still open, though Melvin acknowledged that Andrew Triggs would have the inside track on one if the season began tomorrow.

Jesse Hahn and Raul Alcantara are also competing for those jobs. Alcantara takes the ball against Milwaukee on Thursday.