LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Highly regarded pitching prospect J.R. Graham looked like he was preparing himself for a prize fight when he circled the mound just before throwing his first pitch in the sixth inning of Saturday's 8-3 loss to the Yankees. This was his first appearance in a big league setting, and it showed, as adrenaline seemed to affect his command.
Graham's first pitch was a 99-mph fastball that catcher Christian Bethancourt reached up to prevent from reaching the screen. The 23-year-old right-hander threw a few more 98- and 99-mph fastballs while issuing a leadoff walk to Juan Rivera. After getting Matt Diaz to ground into a double play, Graham issued one more walk in his scoreless one-inning debut.
Graham's fastball primarily rests between 94-97 mph. He will most likely begin the season in Double-A Mississippi's rotation.
"I don't think he took a breath the whole time he was out there," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It's his first time in Major League camp, and he goes out there against the New York Yankees with a lot of people in the stands; it's going to get him excited a little bit. I'm thinking the next time he goes out, we'll see a much calmer J.R. Graham."