GLENDALE, Ariz. – It was a spring training B game on the backfields of Camelback Ranch, and Kendall Graveman was giving it everything he had.
As the batboy. And ballboy, and waterboy all wrapped into one.
The White Sox are paying Gravemen $8 million for the next three seasons to get important outs in late innings of baseball games, not to retrieve bats. But the way Graveman saw it, what else would he be doing on a day he wasn’t throwing?
“Sitting here in this chair at my locker,” he said.
When Graveman, 30, was traded from the Mariners to the Astros last July 27, angered Mariners players ripped general manager Frank DiPito, not only because the team was within a game of the second wild card spot with a surprising 55-46 record and Graveman helped get them there with a 0.82 ERA with 10 saves, but because they lost a leader and a loved teammate who, as the Sox are finding out, isn’t too big to step into the common man’s realm to perform acts of service.
Graveman, who said he did the batboy thing as a Blue Jays minor leaguer, carried out the B-game duty Monday until the very last out. He sat on a perch outside the dugout, shagged bats, brought balls to the plate umpire and delivering water to the crew near second base between innings.
“That’s a pro move there,” manager Tony La Russa said, stopping during an interview to note Graveman’s work. “Talented man bringing it out there.”
“We’re in the desert,” Graveman said. “I told them they need to stay hydrated.”
Graveman said he also wanted to watch Lance Lynn pitch that day and to see how bullpen mate Ryan Burr’s new pitch, a one-seam fastball, was progressing.
“But I just enjoy the game of baseball,” he said. “No one else was doing it so I thought I’d help out a little bit.
“It’s fun. And being on a backfield game with big leaguers and fans is more of an intimate setting. We don’t get that a ton, so that’s a pretty cool thing, just playing the game of baseball without the huge venues.”
Kendall Graveman, batboy.
The Sox stacked their bullpen with new investments Graveman and Joe Kelly joining closer Liam Hendriks, right-handers Craig Kimbrel, Burr and Jose Ruiz and lefties Aaron Bummer and Garrett Crochet.
“I’m excited about not only the talent they signed, but the character, makeup, you can already get a feel there’s no egos,” Graveman said. “We just want to go out and pitch and get outs and ultimately win baseball games. I think that goes a long way as a team, especially when you have guys as established and as good as the here. That’s huge for us.”
Graveman has appeared in three Cactus League games, allowing no runs on no hits and a walk while striking out five.
A ground-ball pitcher with swing and miss stuff, he posted a 1.77 ERA, third best among AL relievers, with 61 strikeouts in 56 innings, between the Mariners and Astros.
“He’s everything we thought he’s be,” pitching coach Curt Hasler said. “Plus sink, plus breaking ball, uses both sides of the plate.”
Graveman is slated to pitch Friday against the Athletics and will pitch on back to back days for the first time this weekend as Opening Day draws nearer.
“What’s really impressive about him is his preparation, knowing himself and exactly what he wants to do, who he is and what his strengths are,” Hasler said.
“And he’s a really good dude, too. The other day in a B game he’s the batboy. He’s out there having fun, talking to everybody. He’s fitting right in.”