-- The bad news for A’s right-hander Kendall Graveman in his first major-league start was the line: 3 1/3 innings, seven hits, eight runs, one walk, one strikeout, two home runs allowed in a 10-1 loss.
The better news was that Graveman’s catcher and manager both said the problem for Graveman on Thursday seemed to be rooted in a simple case of first-start adrenaline.
Graveman, 24, earned himself a rotation spot in his first season with the A’s by posting a 0.36 ERA in spring training, allowing one earned run. He trailed 3-0 after the first inning Thursday and ultimately left his start with one out in the fourth inning, after a three-run homer by Shin-Soo Choo gave the Texas Rangers an 8-0 lead.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said it looked like Graveman was rushing his delivery, which led to the right-hander leaving some pitches up in the strike zone. Catcher Stephen Vogt expanded that when Graveman is rushing, he can’t get his release point out in front of his body enough to create the customary sink on his fastball.
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For that reason, Vogt said, "(Graveman) wasn’t as much up as the ball didn’t have any sink to it. It had run and that was it."
"I just think he was in fast-forward today and couldn’t slow himself down," Vogt said. "We talked about it in the first inning, I went out there after the first couple hitters and said, ‘Hey man, relax, slow yourself down.’ I think he tried to, but he was really excited."
Graveman, for his part, said he felt no more adrenaline Thursday than for his final spring start against the Giants in the Bay Bridge series. But he agreed that he was having trouble generating the right movement on his pitches.
"I was getting more of the east-and-west movement instead of the north-and-south," said Graveman. "I’ve got to stay on top of the baseball for my sink to work."
Graveman didn’t help his cause with a throwing error on a pickoff attempt in the first inning. But Vogt also credited the Rangers with making "some unbelievable swings" against good pitches and said he’s confident that Graveman will respond well from a disappointing beginning to his A’s career.
"Today’s a blip on the screen," Vogt said. "He’s going to be a great pitcher for us and it’s a great learning lesson for him: If he gets things sped up, to be able to slow it down and take control, and get back to throwing the way he knows how to throw."
* Closer Tyler Clippard summed up the A’s through this first series against the Rangers as "feast or famine." In two wins, they scored 18 runs and shut Texas out both times. In two losses, they totaled two runs. Melvin said it’s too early to draw any real conclusions, but that early split personality is covered in the game story.
Clippard finally got into a game Thursday, though not under the circumstances he likely envisioned for his A’s debut. Clippard pitched the ninth with the A’s trailing by nine and allowed a two-out double to Ryan Rua and walk to Mitch Moreland, but got Elvis Andrus to fly out to end a scoreless inning on 16 pitches.
"I was just happy to get out there and feel like I was part of the team a little bit," Clippard said.
Melvin had said he needed to get Clippard an inning regardless of the situation to avoid his going more than five days without pitching. Clippard was glad for the outing and said he’ll be "ready to go and a little more sharp in my next outing."
* Graveman also hit two batters in his outing, continuing a pattern that developed during the series. A’s pitchers hit six Texas batters, all of them left-handed, with Rougned Odor getting hit three times, Carlos Corporan twice and Prince Fielder once. Vogt was asked if it seemed like some of the Texas hitters were crowding the plate.
"I would say that they’re close to the plate and they crowd it," Vogt said. "But there’s no rule that says you have to move. So there was a couple pitches I thought were borderline strikes that hit them. But it’s just a part of the game.
"We have guys that are going to throw aggressive in and they’ve got guys that are willing to crowd the plate and not move. It’s going to be a recipe for a couple of hit by pitches."
* The Rangers aren’t expected to make much noise in the division this year. The Seattle Mariners, who open a three-game series at the Coliseum on Friday night, are. Quite a few pundits are picking the Mariners to win the A.L. West and possibly make a deep playoff run, and Melvin said he understands why.
"Their starting pitching gets your attention right away," Melvin said. "They had a good bullpen last year and all the guys are returning. Then you add Nelson Cruz to an already formidable lineup that needed a right-handed hitter. They’re a very formidable team, one of the elite teams in the American League in my opinion."
The A’s will not see starters Hisashi Iwakuma or James Paxton in the three-game series, but will face ace Felix Hernandez, the 2014 Cy Young runner-up who’s always tough on Oakland, particularly at the Coliseum. The pitching probables for the series:
Friday: LHP Drew Pomeranz (first start) vs. RHP Taijuan Walker (first start)
Saturday: RHP Sonny Gray (1-0, 0.00) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (first start)
Sunday: RHP Jesse Hahn (0-1, 4.50) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (1-0, 1.29)