J.R. Graham threw two shutout innings yesterday in the Minnesota Twins 4-0 Opening Day loss to the Detroit Tigers and was the only relief pitcher that the Twins had to turn to.
This marked a successful Major League debut for the 25-year old righty as he was able to save the team from reaching deep into the bullpen despite the four run loss, allowing them to keep a fresh group of arms in the bullpen as the first series of the season plays on. He was a big bright spot for a team that struggled to get hits off of Detroit ace David Price.
Graham entered the game at the start of the seventh inning and the afternoon didn’t start well for him. He allowed a single and issued a walk to the first two batters he faced in his Major League career with four time All-Star Ian Kinsler due up next, followed by former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
He then got Kinsler to hit into a double play before ending the inning on a pop out by Cabrera. In the eighth inning, Graham once again allowed a leadoff single before retiring the next three batters. He had finished his two innings on 31 pitches, 20 of them going for strikes.
Graham was selected by the Twins this offseason in the Rule 5 Draft, taking him away from the Atlanta Braves system. He was a 4th round selection by the Braves in 2011 and climbed onto the list of Baseball America’s top 100 prospects before the 2013 season but after posting a 5.58 ERA in Double-A last season, had dropped off the list.
Had the Tigers strong offensive weapons, such as Kinsler and Cabrera, gotten to Graham yesterday the team probably would have needed to use more arms out of the bullpen in a game that Minnesota wasn’t going to win anyway. The Twins will be back in action tomorrow against Detroit but thanks to Graham, the whole bullpen will be fresh as they try to back starter Ricky Nolasco.
Nolasco is looking to bounce back from a forgettable 2014 season in which he posted a miserable 6-12 record. He will be opposed by Anibal Sanchez.