Tag: Brett Graves

Wednesday, May 17th: Schrock Hits 2 HRs in Hounds’ Loss while Nashville’s 3 HRs Aren’t Enough to Help Sounds Win

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Second Baseman Max Schrock (3 for 4 / 2 Home Runs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Second Baseman Max Schrock (3 for 4 / 2 HRs)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Midland RockHounds  4

Frisco RoughRiders       7

LP – Finnegan 0-1 / 3.38

HR – Schrock 2 (5), Munoz (2)

Prospect Of The Game:

Second Baseman Max Schrock

(3 for 4 / 2 Home Runs)

Despite having his team fall for the fourth time in their last five games on Wednesday, second baseman Max Schrock had a big night at the plate for Midland. The 22-year-old prospect got off to a slow start in April but has been heating up in May, and the 5-foot-8 infielder muscled up to mash a pair of solo home runs in Wednesday’s contest for the Hounds. Schrock’s first round-tripper in the 4th inning gave the RockHounds the lead and, after falling to a two-run deficit, his second solo shot tied the game in the 6th. Just before Schrock’s second big fly, shortstop Yairo Munoz homered for the second time in the last two days to give the keystone combo back-to-back jacks. Munoz also doubled, stole third and scored a run on center fielder J.P. Sportman‘s RBI single in the 1st. Starter Brett Graves had a rare rough outing, allowing 4 runs on 9 hits over 5 frames, while RHP Ben Bracewell tossed 2 scoreless innings in relief and left with the game tied, but RHP Kyle Finnegan gave up a big 3-run homer in the bottom of the 8th to suffer his 1st loss for the Hounds.

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A’s Farm Report for Week of May 8-14: Brugman Returns, Gossett Gets Hot, Blackburn Goes Cold & Stockton Goes on Skid

Outfielder Jaycob Brugman

Outfielder Jaycob Brugman

 

After missing the start of the season with a leg injury, outfield prospect Jaycob Brugman‘s bat in now back in action for Nashville. Pitching prospect Daniel Gossett has been getting hot after a slow start, while his teammate Paul Blackburn has been cooling off after a fast start. And despite a promising pitching staff, the Stockton Ports have been struggling.

You can always stay up to date on the A’s top prospects and all the daily action in the A’s minor league system right here on Athletics Farm. A version of this weekly minor league report originally appeared on Athletics Nation

 

Click here for this week’s updates on Nashville, Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Friday, May 12th: Gossett Pitches Sounds to Victory while Boyd’s Bat Helps Hounds Win Again

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Daniel Gossett (6 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 7 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Daniel Gossett (6 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 7 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Albuquerque Isotopes  1

Nashville Sounds       3

WP – Gossett 1-2 / 4.15

HR – Barreto (5), Parmelee (4)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Daniel Gossett

(6 IP / 5 H / 1 ER / 1 BB / 7 K / Win)

RHP Daniel Gossett turned in his best start of the season for the Sounds, allowing just 1 run while striking out 7 over 6 innings of work to earn his 1st win on Friday. And the 24-year-old has now given up just 3 earned runs and struck out 16 in 16 innings over his last 3 starts. RHP Zach Neal, who’s now working out of the bullpen with Jharel Cotton‘s addition to the rotation, LHP Ross Detwiler and RHP Simon Castro each tossed 1 scoreless inning in relief, with Castro getting the final three outs in the 9th to notch his 3rd save for Nashville. Shortstop Franklin Barreto hit his 5th home run, a 2-run shot, in the 1st to give the Sounds an early lead, and right fielder Chris Parmelee followed with a solo shot in the 2nd. Left fielder Jaycob Brugman collected 3 hits, while center fielder Ryan LaMarre had a pair of singles as the Sounds snapped their four-game losing streak on Friday. In other news, A’s RHP John Axford was sent to Nashville on a rehab assignment and is scheduled to make his first relief appearance on Saturday, while RHP Daniel Mengden is set to make his second rehab start on Saturday for the Sounds.

Click here for more on Midland, Stockton & Beloit…

Talking Ports Prospects with Stockton Skipper Rick Magnante

by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Stockton Correspondent

rmMGR_Magnante_dervlq1cStockton manager Rick Magnante originally began his professional baseball career as a 13th-round draft pick of the Cleveland Indians out of the University of Santa Barbara back in 1969. He first joined the A’s organization in 1995 as an area scout covering southern California. He also began managing short-season teams for the A’s in 2006 after his duties prepping for each year’s draft were through.

After spending five seasons in Vancouver and three seasons in Vermont, Magnante gave up his scouting duties and began managing full-time. He spent the 2014 season in Beloit and is now in his third season with Stockton.

Just before left-hander A.J. Puk’s impressive performance on Saturday, in which he allowed just one infield single and struck out 9 over 5 scoreless innings, we had the chance to chat with the Stockton skipper about the recent changes to team’s tandem-pitching rotation and well as many of the Ports’ most promising prospects…

 

AF:  First things first, you’re switching up the starting rotation a bit. You’re getting away from the eight-man tandem rotation and are stretching out a few of the guys now. Is that right?

RM:  Well, it’s a little bit of a hybrid now. There will be a couple of guys that piggyback. There will be three guys that get their own start: [A.J.] Puk, [Logan] Shore, and [Evan] Manarino. Those will be the three that will be on their own, and they’ll match up with what’s in the bullpen on that given day.

AF:  Do you have a pitch count for Puk, Shore and Manarino as they get stretched out? What could we expect from an innings standpoint?

RM:  I think we’re going to gradually increase them to where they can get back to 75-85 [pitches], and toward the halfway mark of the season, toward 100 and back on a starter’s number as it relates to what’s expected in the big leagues.

A.J. Puk

A.J. Puk

AF:  Puk’s previous three starts [prior to Saturday] were a little different than his first three. His BABIP was .522, everyone was making good contact against him, and he had three consecutive losses in those appearances. Was he trying something new?

RM:  I don’t necessarily think that he’s trying anything new. I think he’s just understanding that he’s in a professional environment now facing professional hitters. And when he’s making the pitches he’s capable of making, he’s pretty untouchable. But when he doesn’t make those pitches and falls behind or gets deep into counts, these guys – you have to give them credit – they can hit a little bit and it’s what they’ve been doing.

AF:  Back to the tandem-pitching experiment. How do you feel about it?

RM:  I think as far as getting guys more appearances, I get that, but I think we should mirror the model of what’s going on in the big leagues. If the big leagues are going to go to this same format, then I fully understand it. If they’re not, then I’m not sure if the Petri dish experiment is truly working. So, we’ve already amended it.

AF:  Let’s talk about some of the bullpen arms. Between Nolan Blackwood, Carlos Navas, Jared Lyons and Matt Sergey, they’ve managed to allow just 4 runs in their 41 innings of work. Everyone knows some of those names in the rotation, but for those who might not know much about the arms in the pen, tell me about a few of them.

Nolan Blackwood

Nolan Blackwood

RM:  Blackwood can pitch. They [the A’s] like him. He’s a down-under guy and it sinks at 91-92. He’s got the frisbee slider going the other way. He’s hard to pick up with a lot of deception.

AF:  Do you think Brad Ziegler with a slightly better fastball would be a good comparison for Blackwood?

RM:  Probably. This is really my first look at Nolan. I didn’t have him last year. He’s had a few appearances here and, like anybody, he’s probably a little nervous or anxious and maybe sometimes tries to do a little too much. On certain days, there’s one pitch that works. He’s got a sinking fastball at 90-92 – you don’t need to go to the frisbee slider if they’re not swinging at that. And if you don’t have the slider, then you’ve got to go with whatever your best pitch is. So he’s learning.

AF:  I wanted to ask you about Carlos Navas. He pitched very briefly in Triple-A last season, he’s 24 and he pitched extremely well in the Venezuelan Winter League to guys who are bit older than him, and he hasn’t given up a run yet this year here in Stockton. What’s his ceiling?

RM:  There’s no telling. He may move quickly through this organization as the need arises and he’s seasoned. He’s been able to combine a 2-seamer and a 4-seamer, and if he can keep himself on line – that would be his biggest Achilles heal – he doesn’t always work down the slope. He can get left-to-right and that’s when he starts to yank the stuff. This year, his mechanics have been better, he’s been more on line, he’s got two-plane action and he’s got a very good slider. He’s durable, he’s strong, he competes, and he’s got great character, so we all pull for him.

AF:  Casey Meisner has looked much better recently. He hasn’t allowed a run in a couple of his recent appearances. How do you view his development?

RM:  He’s just kind of working through it. You know, he’s a big, tall, rangy guy and sometimes those guys have a more difficult time repeating [their delivery]. It’s confidence as well. In his mind and in the mind of the organization, he probably had a very disappointing season [last year]. He’s a high school draft guy without a lot of experience, but he had a real solid season in the South Atlantic League and in the Florida State League when we traded for him. He came here and stepped right into a role and competed. And then last year was a hiccup for him.

AF:  Although Brett Graves has moved on to Midland, both he and Evan Manarino have done such a great job this year in Stockton. Both pitchers have had their finest strikeout-to-walk ratios of their careers. What are you doing with two guys like that to help them develop?

Evan Manarino

Evan Manarino

RM:  You have two guys who really have a feel to pitch. And they really treat this as an opportunity. They’re students of the game. They assess their performances and they write things down to remind them of what they did right or wrong in their previous outings in terms of how they attacked the hitters. For me, Manarino is Tommy Milone. That’s who he is. He’s unflappable out there. His fastball wouldn’t bust your lip, but he never throws it in the same place twice. It’s the same with the changeup. He mixes his pitches and keeps hitters off balance. He has to be very control-and-command oriented because, the fastball, if it’s not located, is hittable. He’s a pitcher. Graves, on the other hand, he’s got 92-94 in the tank, so he’s got a litmus-test fastball. So with him, it’s commanding the breaking ball and attacking hitters and knowing how to get people out.

AF:  Logan Shore, I believe, at Florida topped out at about 92 mph. Is he getting a little more on his fastball, and how is the development coming along on his slider?

RM:  Yeah, I think his velocity has been somewhere between 91-94 – he’s probably sitting somewhere around 92. I think that’s probably his comfort level. Right now, it’s basically fastball, change and a developing slider. I actually talked to him before we came out today and he’s really working hard to figure out a grip and get comfortable, and he really believes he’s got a slider when he throws it right. It’s a good pitch, but just doesn’t have the consistency yet.

AF:  Offensively, we’ve seen a few guys really hitting well of late – outfielders Skye Bolt and Tyler Ramirez, shortstop Eli White and, despite his slow start, infielder Mikey White has shown some power of late. Is there anyone you’ve been particularly impressed with?

RM:  I think the guy that really had a terrific April and was pushed a little bit in terms of his matriculation through the system has been Eli White. I think he got off to a great start, and I think he’s a guy who has the tools and the skill set and, with some development – maybe a season under his belt – could be a guy that will really surprise.

AF:  Skye Bolt is a guy we’ve all been focused on because of his tools, and he’s currently in the top ten in the California League in on-base percentage. What is he doing differently this season?

RM:  I think he has just made some strides in his basic approach to hitting. He just seems to be more on time, his pitch recognition is better, his path is more consistent. He’s got a lean, sinewy kind of body that doesn’t really say “power,” but when the ball comes off the bat, it can be electric at times. I would kind of liken him a little bit to [Josh] Reddick in terms of that kind of profile or prototype.

AF:  About the injuries to first baseman Sandber Pimentel and catcher Sean Murphy, how long should we expect that they’ll be out?

Sandber Pimentel

Sandber Pimentel

RM:  Pimie…I don’t know. We got him here kind of hoping we could rehab him to begin the year. And we got him back on the field, but then he swung a couple of times and he had to shut it down. It’s a back issue. I’m not an orthopod, so I can’t tell you, but we all thought it’d be better to send him back to Arizona and give him more hands-on treatment to see what happens. Certainly we’d love to have him here because he’s an impact guy for us. If we have him and we have [Chris] Iriart—a lefty/righty combo at first-base and DH—we’ve got some thump and some dangerous guys in the lineup. So, we certainly hope he’ll be fine. With Murph, it’s just a little wrist problem and those are quirky. Those are things that can be hard to work through.

AF:  Catcher Jose Chavez joined the team with Murphy’s absence and hit two home runs in his first six games. Is he someone we can expect to get more and more time while Murphy is out?

RM:  I think so. I think Chavy will get the lion’s share of the catching when Murph’s not capable of playing. And everybody’s always been very complimentary of Chavy’s ability to catch and throw – that’s his forte. It’s the bat that’s always been a little suspect as he has developed through the minor league system. Now he’s getting a little better feel on how to hit. He’s a little stronger. He’s a little more mature. He’s had more experience. So, hopefully we’re starting to see that if this guy has the ability to get to the big leagues, he’ll have a serviceable bat that’ll allow him to play some.

AF:  How much of a defensive drop-off do you see between Murphy and Chavez?

RM:  I would say in the receiving end, probably not too much. I think Murphy is a prodigy. I think he’s advanced and has a baseball IQ that shows that not only can he catch, and he can really throw, but he also has an idea on how to help his pitchers attack hitters and exploit their weaknesses and take advantage of that – and that’s a thinking man’s catcher, and that’s something you can’t really grade out unless you see it every day on the field.

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Sunday, May 7th: Hounds Win 6th Straight in a Walk-Off while Alcantara Suffers Loss for Sounds

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Brett Graves (5 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 5 K)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Pitcher Brett Graves (5 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 5 K)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Frisco RoughRiders       1

Midland RockHounds  2

WP – Trivino 3-0 / 0.71

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Brett Graves

(5 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 0 BB / 5 K)

After putting up a 2.55 ERA and striking out 29 while walking just 3 for Stockton this season, RHP Brett Graves was impressive in his Double-A debut for Midland on Sunday. The A’s 3rd-round draft pick in 2014 showed off his improved command by throwing 47 strikes and only 17 balls while allowing just 1 run, walking none and striking out 5 over 5 strong innings of work for the RockHounds. (You can see our recent interview with Graves here). LHP Cody Stull replaced Graves with the game a 1-1 tie in the 6th and threw 3 shutout innings in relief, and RHP Lou Trivino then tossed a scoreless top of the 9th as the game remained knotted. But with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th, second baseman Max Schrock singled in the winning run as the RockHounds won in a walk-off for the second straight day and posted their sixth straight victory on Sunday. The game-winning hit was Schrock’s second single of the game. Right fielder Tyler Marincov and designated hitter Joe Bennie also notched a pair of singles apiece, while first baseman Viosergy Rosa singled and doubled, and catcher Argenis Raga singled and drove in the tying run for the RockHounds on a sacrifice fly in the 2nd. And Trivino picked up his 3rd win of the season after tossing a scoreless top of the 9th for the Hounds.

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Saturday, May 6th: Puk Pitches Ports to Victory while Midland & Beloit Both Win in Walk-Offs

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher A.J. Puk (5 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 9 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Stockton Ports Pitcher A.J. Puk (5 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 9 K / Win)

 

CALIFORNIA LEAGUE  (High-A)

San Jose Giants    2

Stockton Ports   13

WP – Puk 1-3 / 4.26

HR – Iriart (5)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher A.J. Puk

(5 IP / 1 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 9 K / Win)

Last year’s top draft pick for the A’s, LHP A.J. Puk, turned in his most impressive performance of the season for Stockton on Saturday. The 22-year-old allowed just 1 hit while walking none and notching a pro-career-best 9 strikeouts over a season-high 5 shutout innings to post his 1st win for the Ports. Puk threw a total of 67 pitches, 49 for strikes, in his first post-tandem start for Stockton. LHP Will Gilbert replaced Puk on the mound and gave up 2 runs in 3 innings of relief, while LHP Andrew Tomasovich pitched a perfect 9th to close things out for the Ports. Meanwhile, Stockton’s lineup put a season-high 13 runs on the board on Saturday. Left fielder Tyler Ramirez led the attack by lining 3 hits and driving in 3 runs, while first baseman Chris Iriart hit his 5th home run. Shortstop Eli White singled twice, walked, drove in a run and scored 3 times, and designated hitter Mikey White doubled, drew a walk and drove in 3 for the Ports. Saturday’s game marked the first time that Puk was not pitching as part of a two-man tandem for Stockton. The tandem of RHPs Casey Meisner and Angel Duno is set to pitch on Sunday, while RHP Logan Shore will be the starter on Tuesday, with LHP Evan Manarino making the start on Wednesday, and the tandem of RHPs Dustin Hurlbutt and Boomer Biegalski scheduled to pitch for Stockton on Thursday.

A.J. Puk on the mound in the 1st inning at Stockton on Saturday  (photo: Josh Moore)

A.J. Puk on the mound in the 1st inning at Stockton on Saturday
(photo:Josh Moore)

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Friday, May 5th: Martin Helps Hounds Come Back to Win 4th Straight but HRs by Chapman & Canha Aren’t Enough to Help Sounds Prevail

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Shortstop Richie Martin (2 for 2 / Double / Sac Fly / Stolen Base / 2 Runs / GWRBI)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Midland RockHounds Shortstop Richie Martin (2 for 2 / Double / Sac Fly / Stolen Base / 2 Runs / GWRBI)

 

TEXAS LEAGUE  (Double-A)

Corpus Christi Hooks      4

Midland RockHounds  10

WP – Friedrichs 1-3 / 5.16

Prospect Of The Game:

Shortstop Richie Martin

(2 for 2 / Double / Sac Fly / Stolen Base / 2 Runs / GWRBI)

A big 4-run 6th inning allowed the RockHounds to come back and win their fourth straight to complete the sweep of their series with Corpus Christi on Friday. Shorstop Richie Martin drove in the winning run in the 6th with a sacrifice fly and also singled, doubled, stole a base and scored twice in the win. Center fielder J.P. Sportman singled, doubled and drove in 2 runs, while catcher Andy Paz had 2 hits and drove in a pair, and second baseman Max Schrock singled twice and drove in the tying run in the 6th. Starter Ben Bracewell had another rocky outing for the Hounds, allowing 3 runs over 3 1/3 innings and exiting with his team down by a run. His tandem-starting mate, RHP Kyle Friedrichs, allowed just 1 run in 3 2/3 innings of relief to pick up the win as the RockHounds moved into a tie for first place in their division on Friday.

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Tuesday, May 2nd: Chapman’s 2 HRs Help Sounds Win 5th Straight while Graves & Meisner Lead Ports to Shutout Victory

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Third Baseman Matt Chapman (2 Home Runs / 3 RBIs)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Third Baseman Matt Chapman (2 Home Runs / 3 RBIs)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

Nashville Sounds    11

Round Rock Express  0

WP – Brady 1-1 / 4.30

HR – Nunez (6), Canha (4), Chapman 2 (2), Wendle (1)

Prospect Of The Game:

Third Baseman Matt Chapman

(2 Home Runs / 3 RBIs)

The Sounds put 11 runs on the board as they shut out the Express on just 2 hits to win their fifth straight on Tuesday. Not only did Matt Chapman hit his first home run of the season in the 2nd inning to give the Sounds the lead, but he also added his second home run of the season in the 9th to cap off the victory. Left fielder Renato Nunez homered in his third straight game – slugging his team-leading 6th of the season – while right fielder Mark Canha singled, walked and belted his 4th big fly since joining Nashville. Second baseman Joey Wendle singled twice and ripped his 1st round-tripper of the year, and first baseman Matt Olson singled, doubled and drove in a pair for the Sounds. RHP Raul Alcantara was solid in his return to the Sounds, allowing just 1 hit over 3 shutout innings, while RHP Michael Brady threw 3 scoreless frames in relief of Alcantara to earn the win. Relievers Ross Detwiler, Tucker Healy and Aaron Kurcz each tossed a scoreless inning to complete the 2-hit shutout for the Sounds. Meanwhile, infielder Melvin Mercedes was reassigned to the RockHounds and outfielder Jaycob Brugman was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday.

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Brett Graves: Stepping It Up For Stockton

by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Stockton Correspondent

RHP Brett Graves  (Photo: Meghan Camino)

RHP Brett Graves
(Photo: Meghan Camino)

If you’ve been paying attention to Stockton’s impressive pitching staff this season, you’re not alone. There’s been plenty of talk about the potential of top draft picks like A.J. Puk and Logan Shore, but it was another pitcher on the Stockton staff who was actually the team’s most consistent hurler over the first three weeks of the season.

RHP Brett Graves started off his second season at Stockton by allowing just 1 run and 1 walk while striking out 19 in 18 innings over his first 5 appearances of 2017 for the Ports. The 24-year-old finally had his first rough outing of the season for Stockton on Friday, but he’s still sporting a 3.00 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP to go along with just 2 walks and 24 strikeouts over 21 innings of work.

Graves was a 2014 3rd-round selection out of the University of Missouri, where he spent three seasons pitching in the SEC (the same conference that both Puk and Shore called home). Prior to attending college, Graves was a 26th-round selection of his hometown St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 after leading Francis Howell High School to the MSHSAA State Championships. Splitting time between pitching and playing shortstop, he pitched to a 9-1 record with a 1.95 ERA while batting .441 with six home runs and 35 RBIs as a high school senior.

At Missouri, Graves made impressive strides over the course of his collegiate career, giving many organizations the feeling that he had a lot more potential left to be tapped. He finished his junior season at Missouri with a 3.87 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP, limiting hitters to 0.4 HR/9 while increasing his strikeouts to 6.2 K/9 and decreasing his walks to 1.7 BB/9.

Graves endured a rough start in his first season at Stockton in 2016, posting a 5.72 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP in the first half. He showed improvement over the course of the season though, putting up a 3.36 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP in the second half. Graves ultimately finished the season with a 4.60 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP over 141 innings, but his 5.5 K/9 and his 1.8 K/BB ratio could still stand a little improvement.

Well, one only has to look at Graves’ 24 strikeouts and 2 walks in 21 innings in 2017 to see that he’s clearly stepped up his game this season. We recently had the chance to speak with him to find out, among other things, what accounts for his success at Stockton this season…

 

AF:  You were originally drafted by your hometown St. Louis Cardinals out of high school prior to accepting the offer to pitch at Missouri. How close were you to taking the Cardinals up on their offer and foregoing your college career?

BG:  After getting drafted in the 26th round, I was pretty set on going to college. I think it worked out for the best for me and I was really excited to go to Mizzou.

AF:  Were you a huge Cardinals fan growing up and was it ever your dream to play for them?

BG:  Yes, I was a huge Cardinals fan. I used to imitate their lineup playing in the backyard.

AF:  Did you have any favorite pitchers growing up that you wanted to emulate?

BG:  I really liked Chris Carpenter. He spent a lot of his time in St. Louis, and I loved the way he competed, as well as his intensity on the mound.

AF:  Going all the way back to 2006, there have been quite a few notable Missouri pitchers selected in the early rounds of the draft, including Max Scherzer, Aaron Crow, and Kyle Gibson. Have you ever had the opportunity to talk with any of them?

Brett Graves (Photo: Meghan Camino)

Brett Graves
(Photo: Meghan Camino)

BG:  As far as those guys go, no, I haven’t ever gotten to know any of them. I paid very close attention to how Max attacked hitters and how he competed out on the mound. I definitely tried to pick up anything I could from those guys. I wanted to follow right in their footsteps.

AF:  Is there anyone else from your time at Missouri that has had a profound impact on your maturation process?

BG:  Rob Zastryzny. He was our Friday night starter at Mizzou my freshman and sophomore years. We pushed each other and were there for each other whenever we needed to vent. Last year, he made his debut with the Cubs and got to be a part of that amazing World Series run.

AF:  Over your three seasons at Missouri, your walk rate decreased dramatically each year. Some thought that, as a freshman, you came out throwing hard and had to learn how to command the strike zone; as a sophomore, you controlled the strike zone but maybe weren’t throwing as hard; but as a junior, you really tied both in together and threw quality pitches with a good command of the strike zone. Do you agree with that assessment?

BG:  Yes, I would say that’s pretty spot on. When I came in as a freshman, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to reach back and throw it by these hitters anymore. I had to find my balance between attacking with my best stuff and learning how to pitch.

AF:  What played the biggest role in your collegiate development and making those transitions?

BG:  I would say my two years of summer ball in Newport, Rhode Island. My sophomore summer is where I really think I started to figure things out. Also, I think Rob [Zastryzny] helped me a ton with that.

AF:  How has your pitch repertoire evolved from Missouri to how you pitch now?

BG:  I think I have really been able to expand on my repertoire. I mix my four-seamer with my sinker much more. I’ve added a changeup that I really feel comfortable with that I hardly threw in college. And I think my breaking ball is way ahead of where it was in college.

AF:  Although it’s early in your second season with Stockton, you’ve commanded the strike zone extremely well, showing off a really good walk rate and strikeout rate. Is there anything else that’s enhanced your development since being drafted by the A’s?

BG:  I think the insight and access to some of the new TrackMan data from our staff has helped me to see how to use my pitches better and how to mix pitches maybe more effectively.

AF:  There’s so much information flowing in and out of baseball circles these days. Velocity, spin rates, release heights, the list goes on and on, but what do you find most compelling and most interesting when examining the data for your own pitches?

BG:  I like to look at how my pitches stack up against major league averages – how they’re moving and in what locations they are most effective. It gives me an insight on what pitches to throw in certain counts and the confidence and conviction of how and when to throw them. [A’s minor league pitching coordinator] Gil Patterson and the rest of the A’s staff have really gone to great lengths to make this information available to us and I think it helped me. I don’t think it’s something you can think too much about, but getting a general idea on how to use your pitches, which of your pitches are most successful, and gauging your pitch development based on some of the numbers you see can be very beneficial.

AF:  What pitch combinations are working for you now? Are you doing something different with your pitches that’s equating to better results or are you simply getting more comfortable on the mound?

Brett Graves (Photo: Meghan Camino)

Brett Graves
(Photo: Meghan Camino)

BG:  I think it has to do with a lot of those factors. First and foremost, I think I am just attacking the hitters better, leading to more counts that I’m ahead in, which typically leads to better results. I also think the development of my curveball to this point in the season has given me much more confidence and I’m really feeling much more comfortable with it.

AF:  A few really talented pitchers [A.J. Puk, Logan Shore, Daulton Jefferies] joined you in Stockton this season. Did you feel any added pressure coming into the season knowing that there could be more eyes focused on the pitching staff with some high expectations?

BG:  Not necessarily. Iron sharpens iron and they’re all good dudes that work really hard, so I was excited.

AF:  How do you feel about how they’ve been progressing? Do guys like Logan or A.J. come to you for advice and, conversely, have you picked anything up from them that you’ve felt was helpful?

BG:  Well, I feel they both have a tremendous grasp of who they are and what they need to do. But just from having been through a couple professional seasons now, I try to let them know what to expect – mainly just some things that I would have liked to know coming into pro ball.

AF:  Coming into the season, the A’s were beginning a relatively new philosophy of having eight starting pitchers pitch together in four-inning tandems, and you got the first crack on opening day. How are you adjusting to starting a game and then relieving in a game per the tandem starting pitch philosophy?

BG:  It’s interesting. I think you can learn some valuable lessons from it. You have to come out ready to go and attacking with your best stuff. There’s no time for a two or three spot early whereas, in a normal start, you can settle in and go six or seven innings and it’s a quality start – you just don’t have that option in the eight-man.

AF:  Back to opening day, you pitched four perfect innings without allowing a base runner. Had you ever gone that deep into a game without allowing a man on? And was there talk of coming back out for the 5th inning?

BG:  I have a couple times. However, I’ve never been able to seal the deal. We briefly discussed it in the dugout, but we decided it was just [too] early in the season and [we] had our eyes set more down the road and looking to be at our best come July and August.

AF:  Well, let’s wrap this up with some light stuff. Our readers often like to know some random details about players. I’m personally a big music geek, so what bands are you currently listening to?

BG:  I’m a country music fan. Lately, my roommates and I have been listening to a lot of Thomas Rhett.

AF:  If you were only allowed to keep one country artist’s entire collection of albums with you on a long road trip, which artist would it be?

BG:  Well, last year I went to Hawaii and downloaded every Kenny Chesney song. He has so many hits, I hardly have to listen to the same one twice.

AF:  By the way, you mentioned roommates. Is there anyone you’re particularly close to on the team?

BG:  Well, I share a bedroom with Lana Akau. Doesn’t get much closer than that…

AF:  It’s been a pleasure. Good luck the rest of the way.

(All photos courtesy of Meghan Camino)

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Friday, April 28th: Blackburn Pitches Sounds to Victory while Mann & Sportman Help Hounds Win

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Paul Blackburn (5 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 2 K / Win)

A’s Prospect Of The Day: Nashville Sounds Pitcher Paul Blackburn (5 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 2 K / Win)

 

PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE  (Triple-A)

New Orleans Baby Cakes  1

Nashville Sounds             4

WP – Blackburn 1-2 / 1.64

HR – Canha (3), Olson (3)

Prospect Of The Game:

Pitcher Paul Blackburn

(5 IP / 2 H / 0 ER / 0 BB / 2 K / Win)

RHP Paul Blackburn turned in another strong start for the Sounds, allowing just 2 hits over 5 shutout innings to finally earn his 1st win on Friday. And the 23-year-old has now allowed a total of just 4 earned runs over his first 4 starts for the Sounds. RHP Simon Castro struck out the side in order in the 9th to notch his 2nd save for Nashville. Right fielder Mark Canha homered in his third straight game, drilling a 2-run drive to put the Sounds on the board in the 3rd, while first baseman Matt Olson slugged a solo shot in the 6th. Second baseman Joey Wendle doubled and singled twice, while left fielder Renato Nunez had a pair of doubles and drove in a run to help the Sounds win their second straight on Friday.

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