Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Interview with Danny Graves

Marty Lurie writes:
Here is an interview I did with Cincinnati’s All Star closer Danny Graves on Right Off The Bat. Graves is the only major leaguer ever born in Vietnam. He is a tireless worker in what many people consider the major league’s best bull pen. Graves shares the secret to his success in the pen.L: Our guest tonight is Danny Graves. Danny Graves is 28. He was born in Saigon, the only Major League player ever born in Vietnam. He’s an excellent reliever; he’s 2 and 1 this year, he has 21 saves, he has 118 in his career. He’s been in 333 games. He’s part of a bullpen of Scott Sullivan and Scott Williamson and Gabe White, and these guys pitch just about every day. Bob Boone has no problem going to the bullpen, and I’m sure we’ll see them in this series coming up.

Closer mentality: What is it?

G: I think the main thing about having the mentality to be a closer is to be able to accept failure and, if you have a bad game, be ready to go out the next day and not dwell on it. That’s why a lot of guys have the stuff and the pitches and the ability to be a closer, but they don’t have the mentality to be the closer because they can’t go out the next day and redeem themselves.

L: How did you get it?

G: I don’t know. I was just born with it, I guess. I’ve always felt like we play a kids’ game, and we get paid a lot of money to play this game, and I know you can’t always be perfect, so you have to just move on. You have to continue to try to get better, and when you have bad games you have to hope that more games are gonna be good and not dwell on the bad ones.

L: You don’t have the 95 mile an hour fastball. You don’t blow guys away, knock ’em off the plate. How do you get through a 9th inning? Because those three outs are the toughest to get.

G: They are the toughest to get, believe it or not, and I rely on my ability to pitch. I’m not gonna go out there and strike out everybody I face, and throw 98 miles an hour, but I think I’ve been around for a little bit, and I’ve faced a lot of these guys in the league for a while now, and I know how to pitch. And obviously they’re gonna get their hits off me, and they’re gonna score their runs off me, but I try to work as hard as I can every day to better myself so that I can learn more about this game. And I don’t have the ability to just go out there and strike somebody out like Robb Nen does, or the guys that throw hard. So I have to learn how to pitch and get people out that way. Work on location.

L: You don’t look like a jittery closer. Some closers are high-strung and get nervous out there, and boy, they’re jumpin’ around. You don’t look that way.

G: I’ve never been able to do that, you know. A lot of guys are out there celebrating, jumping around, they just can’t sit still, you know. I’ve never been like that. I’ve always been laid back. No matter what the situation is. I enjoy pressure, and I think the second that you start to get a little bit hyper or a little bit nervous, the other team can see that, they can see that in your eyes. So I’ve always been able to stay on an even keel, and if I strike somebody out there’s no reason to celebrate; I’ve done it before. And that’s the biggest thing: Act like you’ve done it before, and just stay calm, ‘cuz there’s a lot of ups and a lot of downs in this game.

L: I remember when Gregg Olson was drafted out of Auburn in the late’80s, and he was a closer in college. He stepped right into the pros and he was a closer. Looper, who’s now with the Marlins: closer in college. You were a closer at the University of Miami, a top program. How come you became a closer in college?

G: Well, when I got there as a freshman, I didn’t plan on being a closer; I was always a starter going through high school. But with a lot of guys turning down money for the professional draft, they decided to come back to school, and so we had like 16 or 17 pitchers. So the only opportunity I had to pitch was pitching out of the bullpen. So obviously at the time, I’m 18 years old, and I’m gonna do anything I can to be on the team and be able to play. So they threw me in the bullpen, and it’s been history since. I’ve always done it ever since then, and I totally feel more comfortable out of the bullpen than I do as a starter.

L: What about as a kid in Little League? You couldn’t have been a closer in Little League. C’mon, everyone’s a big star in Little League.

G: Well, in Little League you pitch the whole game and the next day you play shortstop. That’s how it was. There were no relievers in Little League. If you had to bring in a reliever, pretty much the game was over already. So I pitched 1 through 7 or 1 through 6, however many innings you played in Little League. I always pitched the whole game.

L: If there was a closer in the past who you would pattern yourself after, someone you looked up to, who would that be?

G: Definitely Lee Smith. Lee Smith went about his business and didn’t say a whole lot. He was very calm and relaxed, and just went in there and just blew people away. Went in there and got his three outs and took it to the house, basically. He’s a guy I like to watch because he throws a lot of strikes, and I think our mentality is the same. We have fun playing this game, and you just have to keep everything on an even keel.

L: Bullpens are always a great story. Anything funny go on in your bullpen? Tom Hume runs it down there. What goes on down there with you guys?

G: A lot of good things go on down there in our bullpen, but I think I might get in trouble if I say anything publicly. But we try to do our own thing down there ‘cuz we’re always separated from the rest of the team. We’re usually behind right field or left field fence, or we’re down in the bullpen somewhere, and we’re not part of the team 1 through 9 innings, so we have to do something to keep our minds in the game and to keep us sane, actually. We have to do a lot of different things to have fun down there.

L: Does it bother you to get up and heat up and not get in the game? Does that take something out of you?

G: No, not at all. I think me being a reliever for so many years, I know what it takes for me to be ready to get in a game. And at this level you have to understand that there’s gonna be times, obviously, that you get warmed up to go into the game, but then if the starter or the pitcher ahead of you ends up getting out of it, you might not get in. So you have to prepare yourself mentally, too, that you’re not gonna get in every time you warm up. So being a veteran bullpen guy, I’m used to that now.

L: Big left-hander at the plate, last of the 9th, two out, tying run at 3rd, you gotta throw a big pitch. What’s the pitch for you?

G: Who’s the left-hander?

L: Barry Bonds.

G: Well, they won’t let me pitch to him, so…definitely a sinker. If I’m gonna get beat, I’m gonna get beat with my number one pitch, and that is my number one pitch. I would never second-guess myself for throwing a pitch, but you don’t wanna get beat with something besides your best. And when you’re going against their best, you want to give it your best. And whoever comes out on top, you tip your hat.

L: This bullpen you have, you guys are in there all the time: Sullivan, Williamson, Pineda, Gabe White. This is a pretty good bullpen.

G: Yeah, we are a pretty good bullpen, actually. We’re a bunch of guys who do what we can to keep the team in the game. There’s been games where we’ve been down a few runs, or we’ve been up a few runs, and we thrive on getting out there and getting appearances and throwing a lot of innings. I know a lot of people say we’ve had too many innings in the past, and we’re gonna get tired; well, I think that’s what makes us better. The more often you throw, the better you are. And we love taking these innings. And I think that’s why we’ve been successful, and people don’t understand: You need to pitch to get better.

L: A pleasure having you on Right Off the Bat, Danny Graves. Thanks so much.

G: Thank you for having me.


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