As Mississippi State looks to solve some pitching woes, senior right-hander Kendall Graveman is trying to lead the way for those struggling starters. The Bulldogs (24-8, 3-6 SEC) hope to get things right this weekend when they host Florida (14-16, 4-5), starting with today’s game at 6:30 p.m.
In my series advance, I write about Graveman, who against Arkansas last Saturday last week threw a complete game, the first by an MSU pitcher this season. He gave up one run on five hits with five strikeouts and zero walks – on 99 pitches. I had a good chat with Graveman yesterday, and I have the full Q&A for you right here. Good stuff.
What did the Arkansas outing mean for you and the staff?
“My whole goal in the outing was to go out and shove the ball in the zone and let our defense play. For the most part, our defense played great – I mean, flawless. I couldn’t have asked any more out of them. I’m just trying to lay a road map out to some younger guys that, hey, if you just pump it in the zone, we’ve got the best defense in the conference, and maybe America, that will make plays behind you. It was kind of an out-of-body experience. I was coming in between innings, and I would sit there and watch our hitters hit, and I’d be back out there. Just to be able to work efficient and only throw 99 pitches was huge for me to go the whole game.”
You seem to be taking it upon yourself to show guys how it’s done.
“Two years ago I couldn’t have done that. Just the maturity, as far as I’ve come throughout the years, experience and things like that, I knew what I had to get done. Coaches believed in me. Our bullpen is strong. I didn’t have any doubt that if I would’ve had to come out of the game there in the eighth or ninth that (Jonathan) Holder would’ve got the job done. I feel like I was feeling good and throwing not as many pitches as I usually do, so that was a plus.”
How big an emphasis is there on starters getting deep into games, saving the bullpen?
“That’s our whole goal as a starter, and we know that. If you’re in high school, you’re trying to get deep into games. If you’re in professional baseball, you’re trying to get deep into games as a starter. The key to that is throwing strikes and pumping it in the zone. There’s a time and place for if you’re going to pitch around somebody, but as a starter early in the game, we’re not going for strikeouts. And if you’re going to go for strikeouts, then that’s going to run your pitch count up maybe. Our bullpen has done a great job all year as far as when their name’s called. Ross Mitchell‘s thrown a bunch of innings out of the pen. You’ve got some other guys that have come in and done a great job that maybe have been used more than we thought they’d be so far. In my opinion, I think that’s a positive thing, because later on who knows how many innings they’ll have to throw if a starter gets in trouble. It’s prepared us for the future, and also it’s got some guys some innings and some experience already.”
If other starters could avoid early trouble, you feel they’d be OK?
“My freshman year I started a game at South Carolina and didn’t get an out. That’s something that I can always refer to. If I had never gone through that, I wouldn’t know how to speak with some of the guys that have been through it. Just for me to be able to say, hey, look, I was there one day, I didn’t get an out, I gave up three runs and didn’t get an out – just for me to have been in that experience in my shoes before has given me (credibility), and I think it was a positive coming out of it. Because now looking back, if I wouldn’t have gone through that, I wouldn’t have known how to talk with these guys or maybe communicate with them after something like that’s happened.”
You said it was an out-of-body experience at Arkansas. Can that translate to this weekend?
“I was just really focused. You have days like that where you feel like that’s the only thing you’re doing that day – you’re going to the mound to pitch. As soon as I walked in the stadium I felt that way. Locating pitches is something I feel can carry over to this week. I located better than I ever have, moved the ball in and out, up and down, front and back to hitters. That’s something I’ll be able to carry over, build a little bit more confidence. Not like I wasn’t locating earlier, but that’s the best I’ve located probably since I’ve been here.”
This is a big series for y’all.
“I don’t try to press upon some of the younger guys who have never been in this situation. I guess the cliché goes, every series is just as big as the next game that you’re playing. For sure this series is big, (can) kind of get us on a roll. We’re confident still. We’re still a team that knows we can win a lot of games, and we’ve already won some games. I think you’ll see some of the older guys in the back of their mind maybe thinking that, but if you start thinking that too much you’ll start pressing and playing a little bit under pressure. You’ll see some of the guys – Adam Frazier, Wes (Rea), (Hunter) Renfroe – they know it’s a big series, but if you start playing like it’s a big series, that’s when you kind of get away from the fundamentals and the things that we’ve been talk and letting our body go through motion and do what we’ve been taught the whole time.”