Kendell Graveman works on the mound for Mississippi State last season. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
Kendall Graveman took his selection in the Major League Baseball draft serious.
The Mississippi State right-handed pitcher was drafted in the 36th round by the Miami Marlins last year. He didn't know what to do coming off his junior season and had to make the decision on is own.
"I couldn't have an advisor or agent," Graveman said. "That means I had to kind of figure things out on my own. I had to grow up and talk to the guys."
Graveman took his time with his decision, but decided to return to MSU for his senior season.
"It took several days," Graveman said. "I had been in contact with some of the guys that had been drafting me. I went to the Cape this summer because they wanted to see me pitch. (It lasted) I would say a couple of weeks. They went and watched me one time in the Cape and I was wavering both ways. I didn't know what I wanted to do at first. After I weighed my options, I would say about three weeks after the process, I decided to come back."
Graveman's decision has already begun to payoff. He was picked as a co-captain along with sophomore first baseman Wes Rea.
"I really am truly honored to be a co-captain on this team," Graveman said. "Wes is also going to do a great job leading this team this year."
The Alexander City, Ala. native started 16 games last season for the Bulldogs. He had a 4-4 record with a 2.81 ERA. He pitched a career-high 89.2 innings and registered 59 strikeouts.
Graveman and MSU has come a long way from his freshman year. Graveman pitched in 19 games his freshman year and had a 7.02 ERA.
"I also want to thank our coaching staff and what theyâ€™ve done for us," Graveman said. "I know itâ€™s been a process. Coach (John) Cohen just talked about not looking at it right now and thatâ€™s what we didnâ€™t have to do my freshman year. Itâ€™s been a process these four years. I remember winning six Southeastern Conference games my freshman year and now to look back and to win an SEC Tournament and go to a Super Regional has been great."
The Bulldogs have made headway over the last couple of years. Two years ago MSU was one win away from the College World Series. Last year, the Bulldogs won the SEC Tournament.
This year MSU looks to build on that success and use the experience to reach its goal.
"It was a good year last year and a good year before, but this year I think we have something else to prove and something else to try to work toward," Graveman said.
Last year, the Bulldogs had a true ace in Chris Stratton. After being drafted in the first round by the San Francisco Giants, State is without an ace.
There are a couple of options Cohen can turn to. Cohen's approach is anything but normal. For most pitchers, pitching on Friday night is the ultimate goal.
Graveman may be the best pitcher on the staff, but he has a role.
"The Saturday guy is going to have to go out and get us six or seven innings," Cohen said. "As a Saturday guy, does that end up being Kendall Graveman, who's more of an innings-eater-upper? There's so much prowess attached to the Friday night guy, but I don't think that's necessarilyâ€¦ Every one of those games is just as important as Friday night. I really don't put as much stock into the Friday guy."
Graveman is comfortable with that role. He pitched several Saturday games last year and he feels his game can eat up a lot of innings.
"That was my role last year," Graveman said. "I throw a sinker and everyone knows that. I get (batters) to hit the ball on the ground. I'm not a guy who's going to go out and post eight, nine strikeouts a game. We did turn the most double plays last year in college baseball. I do see that. If you keep your defense active, especially with the pitcher I am, they're going to play well behind you. Just pump strikes and get in and out of innings. I know we like to try to go 15 or less pitches per inning each time we go out there. If you do that you can get to the seventh, eighth inning pretty easy."
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