The A’s shuffled their pitching staff Sunday morning, optioning starter Kendall Graveman to Triple-A Nashville and recalling reliever Ryan Cook. Jesse Chavez will replace Graveman in the A’s starting rotation.
Graveman logged an 8.27 ERA in his first four starts after winning a rotation spot with his strong spring training performance. The 24-year-old was pitching in Single A at this time last year, so his jump to the majors was quick. He and manager Bob Melvin said that might have led to Graveman putting pressure on himself to his own detriment.
“I think he’s trying a little too hard,” Melvin said. “For a guy that’s had such a quick road to the big leagues, now he’s going through something he’s never really had to go through before. We expect him back. This is just a little bit of a respite for him.”
Graveman is clearly taking his struggles hard – he was emotional after his start Saturday and again Sunday morning when discussing the move with reporters. He said he believes that when he tenses up it affects the sink on his pitches, and he had a good throwing session Sunday morning by treating it “free and easy.”
“You want to help the team win,” Graveman said. “Sometimes that competitive spirit that drives me gets a little bit too much. That competitive spirit drives me to be somebody I’m not sometimes and not trust my stuff. That’s why I’m going down, to continue to find that and bottle up the positive energy and get some innings in, get some work and be back to help this team.”
Cook provides some reinforcement for an A’s bullpen that’s a little unsettled right now. Cook has allowed just one hit in five outings at Nashville, and Melvin said the reports are Cook is locating his fastball and slider well to his glove side of the plate – a key to his success.
With Chavez now a starter and Chris Bassitt off limits today after throwing 4 1/3 innings Saturday, Dan Otero is the A’s long reliever today. Melvin said he could go to Cook in the later innings to protect a lead if necessary.
A’s lineup behind left-hander Drew Pomeranz:
Astros’ lineup behind right-hander Asher Wojciechowski:
* Melvin had a raft of injury updates today. Most notably, Coco Crisp (elbow) could take batting practice by the end of the week, which would make his return imminent. Crisp is not one to normally need lengthy minor-league rehab assignments, but Melvin said Crisp would probably play “a couple” rehab games given his layoff.
Jarrod Parker is scheduled to throw five innings, 75 pitches total, in his second rehab start for High-A Stockton against Visalia Tuesday. A.J. Griffin will throw a simulated inning of about 25 pitches on Monday. Both are recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The A’s have not set a surgery date for Ben Zobrist (meniscus tear in left knee) – Melvin said it will likely be early this week.
* Jesse Hahn (blister) threw a bullpen session this morning. The A’s will set their rotation after Monday’s off day depending on when Hahn is ready to start. Sonny Gray is listed as the Tuesday starter against the Angels, and Melvin indicated that if Hahn came out of his bullpen session OK, he would start Wednesday.
Chavez’s next start is still TBA, but he’s made a job the past couple seasons out of being flexible and said today he’s prepared for anything. Chavez threw six innings starting for Hahn last Thursday, allowing two runs but only hit, and said that helped convince him he can handle a starter’s workload after preparing this spring for a bullpen role.
“It’s just a different title change and role, that’s how I look at it,” Chavez said. “I’ve still got to go out there and do my job.”
* The A’s have lost four of five, and Melvin was asked what it’ll take for the A’s to snap out of their early mini-funk.
“It’s a good question, we didn’t really see this coming,” Melvin said. “Certainly our outfield defense we felt is going to be terrific and we’ve made some errors in the outfield, which I think is unlike us. It’s just going out there and playing a few games in sync. … It’s about getting more consistent, across the board.”