SURPRISE, Arizona — It’s taken a while, but A’s starter Kendall Graveman is starting to feel like the pitcher the A’s expect to get come Opening Day.

At his best keeping the ball on the ground, something he felt he did not do enough of in his previous three outings, Graveman utilized his sinker well by getting several hitters to hit ground balls in Tuesday’s 9-8 win against the Royals.

That’s who I am,” Graveman said. “I showed that I could get the ball back on the ground with good movement. Now what’s left is building up the pitch count.”

It wasn’t all smooth for Graveman.

He ran into some trouble in the fourth, giving up two runs as he allowed the first five batters of the inning to reach base, and was removed by manager Bob Melvin before he was able to record an out.

Despite some shaky infield defense on a couple of plays by infielders Jorge Mateo and Franklin Barreto, manager Bob Melvin said he thought fatigue played a factor in Graveman’s poor inning.

“I thought he was good. He got a little tired at the end. He hasn’t been up that fourth time,” Melvin said. “We saw what we typically see out of Kendall, which is a lot of strikes, a little variation in velocities with his fastball, and a lot of movement.”

Graveman had wanted to pitch deeper into games after failing to go past the third inning in his first three starts of the spring, so Tuesday was a step in the right direction.

Ending up being charged with four earned runs in three innings of work, Graveman said hitting the first batter of the fourth inning was the ultimate cause of his unraveling. With a few more outings left this spring to build up his stamina, Graveman is pleased with the direction he’s heading in.

“That’s kind of what escalated the whole inning. Even in that inning I made some good pitches and got some soft contact. Two infield singles and a bloop to right,” Graveman said. “I’ve gotta continue to bear down and focus as the innings go along. Locate that heater in. The last couple outings when my pitch count gets up there, that pitch is getting away from me a little bit. That’ll come with time.”


Mateo, 22, was optioned to Triple-A Nashville after Tuesday’s game in which he showed off his impressive power by crushing two home runs off Royals pitcher Danny Duffy.

The move was to be expected, given Oakland’s crowded middle infield that features Marcus Semien at shortstop and Jed Lowrie at second base.