Danny Graves Project Moving Slowly For Mets Tastes
By Joe McDonald
The erstwhile Cincinnati Reds closer has come to the New York Mets as a shell of his former self. Graves, who saved 41 games last year for the Reds, is now trying to regain the form that made him one of the elite closers in the National League.
“My performance is not where I want it to be,” Graves said. “But, I was real screwed up - mechanics, mentally and everything. At this level, I can’t just turn on a light switch and make things right again.”
Graves also said he was tipping his pitches, which many of his Met teammates said they saw when he faced them in Cincinnati. It’s a problem that has not been solved and the reliever said that some of his pitches were picked up when he faced the Yankees last Friday.
Graves is working with Mets’ pitching coach Rick Peterson to get his consistency back and has been throwing every other day trying to improve his mechanics. Manager Willie Randolph is also using him in tough situations.
“I just need to go out there,” Graves said. “I am slowly trying to get myself back to where I was and unfortunately it has taken longer than expected. Right now it’s kind of early and I am trying to get back on track. Whatever work I can get, I will take it.”
Graves points to 2003 when the Reds took him out of the bullpen and moved him into the starting rotation as the cause of his “bad habits.” The extra workload of the rotation also landed him on the disabled list in September of that season.
“Last year, I had a good year, but I lost my velocity and nothing was said,” Graves explained. “This year I started off bad and they said I lost my velocity. In this game, you have to be strong mentally.”
It showed in his numbers. With the Reds, Graves was 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA and 10 saves in 20 games. That was good enough to have him designated for assignment on May 23 and the Mets signed him hoping that he would regain his form.
“He’s part of our bullpen,” Randolph said. “He’s going to be a guy who is going to be real important to us at the end. So I am trying to get him into the game so he can get his feet under him again. It’s totally new to him to not pitch as much.”
Right now, Graves is trying to get acclimated to New York. He is living in Manhasset and loving the New York lifestyle, saying that he had more fun in the three weeks with the Mets than eight years in Cincinnati.
But, if he is going to have any meaningful time in this town, Graves has to produce. He feels that he has made some progress.
“I definitely think I am going in the right direction,” he said. “I am still giving up hits, but I am around the strike zone more. I think I am moving the right way and I need to get ready for the stretch run.”