Graham Learning Quickly

PEARL, MS - Mississippi pitcher, J.R. Graham, is moving on up, and shows no signs of coming back down. Fresh off a Southern League Pitcher-of-the-Week honor, Graham has made the most of his short time in Mississippi. Pitching coach Mike Alvarez is excited about the opportunity to work with the red-hot Graham.

"I think that we have an opportunity to witness a kid who's probably going to pitch in the big leagues for a while. He's got all the tools and a great disposition, and it's just a matter of time," Alvarez stated.

Due to Graham transferring to the M-Braves mid-season, coach Alvarez wasn't able to really see him before his arrival. However, Alvarez did hear about him as he was tearing up the Carolina League.

"I didn't really see him a whole lot, but I was hearing a lot about him. The information I got was from the pitching coach in Lynchburg, Derrick Botelho. He told me, you know, that he was a good kid, his work ethic, and, obviously, he's got a very good arm," Alvarez said.

It's probably safe to say that Botelho didn't want to relinquish the young star, but Graham was sure ready to move on. He recalls the moment when he was called.

"It was awesome. That was my goal coming into the season," Graham said. "I was excited because I skipped a level. I went from rookie ball to high-A ball and now I'm here.

"So yeah, it was exciting. We just had an off day the day before and I got called in. They told me, ‘You're getting called up.'"

The excitement quickly turned to business as Graham and the coaching staff had to add to his game.

"Since he's been here, he has continued to work on his changeup and also his slider. He's been able to do that, and I think that he is on the right track," Alvarez opined.

"I'm adjusting well," Graham said. "The Carolina League was a tough league so it made it a little bit easier transition. There was some stuff that I still needed to work on coming up here. But, I think I handled it pretty well."

As far as struggles are concerned, there really hasn't been many for Graham, but both he and coach Alvarez always want to improve.

"His struggles are probably, like most guys, deep into the count," Alvarez said. "There really hasn't been anything major. He has the ability and has shown the ability to get through some tough innings, which is always a good sign. So, nothing really that stands out where you say that there's a little concern."

"Early I was struggling with throwing strikes, which isn't like me," Graham added. "I started to walk a lot of guys just trying to adjust to the level.

"I think I got a little cautious coming up here thinking, ‘Wow, Double-A.' But you know, they're just hitters, and they'll get themselves out most of the time if you make good pitches. So, I'm getting used to not getting freaked out by Double-A hitters."

Now that Graham has been able to adjust more into the Double-A league, he and his coach can focus on more technical areas.

"He needs to continue to improve his secondary pitches, his slider, his changeup, and he's doing that," Alvarez said. "With more experience, I think that he will get to were he needs to, and where we feel that he can."

"I've developed and I'm currently working on the changeup," Graham said. "I switched from a two-seam grip to a four-seam grip. I tried to take a little velocity off of it. The last couple of games it worked well."

Graham is the type of player that likes to take on challenges. He does well to prepare himself for the future.

"He's very focused. He's very mature for his age," Alvarez boasted. "He's all business. Everything he does revolves around his next outing.

"For example, immediately after the game, he begins to prepare for the next game. He doesn't cut any corners, and he is doing what he needs to do to achieve his goal."

"I need to improve on everything: locating the fastball, locating the sliders and the changeup," Graham said. "The biggest thing is my secondary pitches, my slider and my changeup are what need to develop a little bit more."

Graham knows that the way up is tough; that's why he works hard on preparing himself as best as possible. Even though he's had a great run, he won't back down on his intensity. He understands that he is at a higher level of competition now, and he is grateful for the challenge.

"The hitters make this league better. The teams here have a better plan of what's going on. If you make a mistake here…[shakes his head]. In High-A, if you make little mistakes, you get away with it," Graham said. "Here you're not getting away with those mistakes anymore; you're getting punished."

Don't bet your money on Graham getting punished too often; he learns quickly. But, do expect many more honors to come his way.


Atlanta Dugout Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n\"I think that we have an opportunity to witness a kid who's probably going to pitch in the big leagues for a while. He's got all the tools and a great disposition, and it's just a matter of time,\" Alvarez stated.
\r\n
\r\nDue to Graham transferring to the M-Braves mid-season, coach Alvarez wasn't able to really see him before his arrival. However, Alvarez did hear about him as he was tearing up the Carolina League.
\r\n
\r\n\"I didn't really see him a whole lot, but I was hearing a lot about him. The information I got was from the pitching coach in Lynchburg, Derrick Botelho. He told me, you know, that he was a good kid, his work ethic, and, obviously, he's got a very good arm,\" Alvarez said.
\r\n
\r\nIt's probably safe to say that Botelho didn't want to relinquish the young star, but Graham was sure ready to move on. He recalls the moment when he was called.
\r\n
\r\n\"It was awesome. That was my goal coming into the season,\" Graham said. \"I was excited because I skipped a level. I went from rookie ball to high-A ball and now I'm here.
\r\n
\r\n\"So yeah, it was exciting. We just had an off day the day before and I got called in. They told me, ‘You're getting called up.'\"
\r\n
\r\nThe excitement quickly turned to business as Graham and the coaching staff had to add to his game.
\r\n
\r\n\"Since he's been here, he has continued to work on his changeup and also his slider. He's been able to do that, and I think that he is on the right track,\" Alvarez opined.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm adjusting well,\" Graham said. \"The Carolina League was a tough league so it made it a little bit easier transition. There was some stuff that I still needed to work on coming up here. But, I think I handled it pretty well.\"
\r\n
\r\nAs far as struggles are concerned, there really hasn't been many for Graham, but both he and coach Alvarez always want to improve.
\r\n
\r\n\"His struggles are probably, like most guys, deep into the count,\" Alvarez said. \"There really hasn't been anything major. He has the ability and has shown the ability to get through some tough innings, which is always a good sign. So, nothing really that stands out where you say that there's a little concern.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"Early I was struggling with throwing strikes, which isn't like me,\" Graham added. \"I started to walk a lot of guys just trying to adjust to the level.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think I got a little cautious coming up here thinking, ‘Wow, Double-A.' But you know, they're just hitters, and they'll get themselves out most of the time if you make good pitches. So, I'm getting used to not getting freaked out by Double-A hitters.\"
\r\n
\r\nNow that Graham has been able to adjust more into the Double-A league, he and his coach can focus on more technical areas.
\r\n
\r\n\"He needs to continue to improve his secondary pitches, his slider, his changeup, and he's doing that,\" Alvarez said. \"With more experience, I think that he will get to were he needs to, and where we feel that he can.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I've developed and I'm currently working on the changeup,\" Graham said. \"I switched from a two-seam grip to a four-seam grip. I tried to take a little velocity off of it. The last couple of games it worked well.\"
\r\n
\r\nGraham is the type of player that likes to take on challenges. He does well to prepare himself for the future.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's very focused. He's very mature for his age,\" Alvarez boasted. \"He's all business. Everything he does revolves around his next outing.
\r\n
\r\n\"For example, immediately after the game, he begins to prepare for the next game. He doesn't cut any corners, and he is doing what he needs to do to achieve his goal.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I need to improve on everything: locating the fastball, locating the sliders and the changeup,\" Graham said. \"The biggest thing is my secondary pitches, my slider and my changeup are what need to develop a little bit more.\"
\r\n
\r\nGraham knows that the way up is tough; that's why he works hard on preparing himself as best as possible. Even though he's had a great run, he won't back down on his intensity. He understands that he is at a higher level of competition now, and he is grateful for the challenge.
\r\n
\r\n\"The hitters make this league better. The teams here have a better plan of what's going on. If you make a mistake here…[shakes his head]. In High-A, if you make little mistakes, you get away with it,\" Graham said. \"Here you're not getting away with those mistakes anymore; you're getting punished.\"
\r\n
\r\nDon't bet your money on Graham getting punished too often; he learns quickly. But, do expect many more honors to come his way.
\r\n
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