Graveman shows rust, looks to move forward after seven-run outing

Graveman shows rust, looks to move forward after seven-run outing

SAN FRANCISCO — The game plan is pretty simple for Kendall Graveman when things are rolling for him.

He throws his sinkers, lots of them, and the movement he typically has on the pitch keeps hitters beating ground balls into the earth and generating zeroes on the scoreboard.

On Thursday night, the A’s right-hander certainly looked to be knocking the cob webs off. The end result was an 11-2 Oakland loss in the Bay Bridge Series finale, after the Giants tagged him for seven runs in just two innings.

That left Graveman in a predictable mood afterward. Always one to heap loads of responsibility on his shoulders, he was peeved at himself for leaving such a long night’s work for his bullpen.

“They did a good job getting to some balls in, and when I went away they did a good job taking the ball the other way,” Graveman said after his first major league start since May 19. “I’ve got to do a better job, first off, getting us off to a good start. As a starter you’ve got to set the tone and I didn’t do that tonight.”

Graveman twice has hit the disabled list this season with shoulder strains. This most recent one put him on the shelf for 2 1/2 months. A stat line like Thursday’s poses the obvious question of whether there was anything physically wrong. But Graveman assured his arm felt good and that the ball was coming out well.

Manager Bob Melvin took slight encouragement from the fact that Graveman’s velocity improved in the second inning over his first.

But the movement that’s oh-so-crucial for the righty abandoned him. Rather than the late movement that fools hitters, Graveman’s two-seam fastball was moving early and hitters were able to track it and square it up for eight hits over his two innings.

“I wasn’t on top of the baseball as much as I have been in the past, and it showed,” he said. “For me, (the late movement) has got to be first and foremost if I’m going to throw a majority of those (sinkers).”

The takeaway from Thursday — Graveman gets a mulligan. It was his first start since May, and though he said after the game that his three rehab starts got him prepared adequately, it’s possible he needed this first start against big league hitters simply to work the kinks out.

The final two months of this season are all about the A’s laying groundwork for the future. Part of that plan is seeing Graveman prove he’s back healthy, and re-establish himself at the front of a rotation that currently includes rookies Paul Blackburn and Jharel Cotton and second-year starter Sean Manaea.

Daniel Gossett was sent down because the A’s don’t need a fifth starter for the short term, but assuming he returns at some point this season it will give the A’s three rookies in their rotation.

“(Graveman) is a huge part of our puzzle, a leader on this team,” utility man Chad Pinder said. “We all have the utmost confidence in him. You’re gonna have those days. We all have his back.”

Kaval calls A's ballpark plan 'as big a project' as Oakland has seen


Kaval calls A's ballpark plan 'as big a project' as Oakland has seen

OAKLAND — A’s president Dave Kaval took part in a fan Q&A session Friday at the Coliseum as part of the team’s Fan Appreciation Weekend.

Here’s some bits and pieces from the session, which was moderated by A’s radio broadcaster Ken Korach:

—Would the A’s re-consider the Coliseum site for a new ballpark if the Peralta location ultimately doesn’t work out?

Kaval: “We’re 100 percent focused on Peralta. We think it can be a dynamic location, and we’re excited about engaging the community. .. But we’re not abandoning East Oakland.”

To that end, Kaval emphasized once again the A’s ambition for the Coliseum site — if all of the current professional teams do in fact bolt the location — to eventually house a youth sports academy with baseball fields and other facilities.

“Wouldn’t it be something to have more home-grown players playing at our (new) ballpark?”

—What other ballparks might be inspirations for design of the venue?

“I think the two guiding principles we have, are, 1) that it’s an intimate ballpark. Not a bad seat in the house. No nosebleeds. Think Fenway or Wrigley (plans are for a roughly 35,000 seat stadium). And 2) build something uniquely Oakland. Something that feels like Oakland, whether it’s an Oaklandish store (built in to the stadium), or the foodie culture …”

—Addressing how city and county funds might be utilized, Kaval emphasized that the ballpark itself will be privately financed, as has been stated before. He mentioned public funds being used for infrastructure (also a long-established idea), including possible enhancements to the Lake Merritt BART station, which is a short walk from the proposed stadium location.

“We’ll work together with the county, with the city, with (the) Peralta (Community College District). This is as big a project as the city has ever seen, a massive coordinating effort.”

—As Kaval told NBC Sports California in this story last week, the A’s plan to retain a good chunk of their current young core of talent to be the cornerstone players once the new stadium opens. Their target move-in date is Opening Day, 2023. That likely means sinking money into long-term extensions for players who will be arriving at, or nearing, their free agency years. Kaval mentioned the Cleveland Indians of the early 90’s as an example of a team opening a new stadium with a home-grown group of stars. Billy Beane, the head of the A’s baseball operations, has made the same comparison in the past.

— The A’s plan to build substantial parking, but the idea is for the new ballpark to be “(public) transit-first, like AT&T Park and Fenway,” Kaval said. … “It’s gonna take cars off the road.”

Having said that, Kaval added that the A’s will aim to preserve the tailgating culture with the parking that they do provide.

Could Franklin Barreto get a look in center field for A's?


Could Franklin Barreto get a look in center field for A's?

Don’t count out top prospect Franklin Barreto as a possibility for the A’s in center field.

It’s long been speculated that the middle infielder might eventually get a look in center, and the idea has at least been discussed in team circles. It’s tied partially to whether the A’s exercise their $6 million club option on Jed Lowrie and bring him back as their regular second baseman in 2018.

Regardless, the battle to be Oakland’s everyday center fielder will be one of the A’s most intriguing storylines next spring. Grady Fuson, a special assistant to general manager David Forst who spends much of the season evaluating the team’s farm system, discussed several of the team’s center field options in the latest A’s Insider Podcast.

So much revolves around the health of 22-year-old Dustin Fowler, one of three prospects the A’s received from the Yankees for Sonny Gray. He’ll spend the winter continuing to rehab from a devastating knee injury suffered in his very first major league game in June while still with New York.

The A’s are hopeful he’ll be ready for spring training and believe he can be a solution in center.

“Fowler certainly is the guy we made this trade for, and I think everybody, top to bottom, in the system is counting on him taking that spot,” Fuson said. “But we all know he’s been hurt. How he comes back, who knows? Boog (Powell’s) been doing a very good job for us. And there’s other options.”

The 21-year-old Barreto, who has split time between second and short this season at Triple-A and with the big club, played some center in the Venezuelan Winter League in 2015. He’s always talked with enthusiasm about the idea.

The A’s experimented with another highly touted young infielder, Yairo Munoz, in center field in the minors this season.

“(We’ve) had discussions about taking Munoz out there, which we’ve done,” Fuson said. “We’ve had discussions about maybe Franklin Barreto, depending on what happens at second here at end of the year, over the winter, and early in camp.”

Lowrie has enjoyed a very strong season with Oakland, and A’s executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane has said the team is seriously considering picking up his option. Having Barreto be an option in center could be a way to keep him in the majors in 2018 even if Lowrie returns at second base.

Fuson stressed that the idea of Barreto in center hasn’t advanced past the early-discussion phase. No decisions have been made.

What’s interesting is that, in a short time, the A’s have gone from scarce few center field options to suddenly having several. Powell and Fowler may enter the spring as front runners, but Munoz, Jaycob Brugman, Chad Pinder, Jake Smolinski and, perhaps, Barreto may all have a shot too.

The A’s also used their first-round pick in June on high school center fielder Austin Beck, who represents another option down the road.