There were many more well-known players that made the South Atlantic League All-Star Game than Marlins reliever Kevin Cravey. But no player selected for the game in Charleston, S.C., had a more fascinating journey to get there.
Two years after going undrafted because he decided not to play baseball his last two years in college, the righthander has had a breakout season for low Class A Greensboro and was fourth among South Atlantic League relievers with a 1.61 ERA in 28 innings.
Cravey was a part of Texas A&M’s 18th ranked recruiting class in 2007, but he had surgery to eliminate bone spurs in his pitching elbow during his freshman year. In the 2008 season, the Texas A&M coaching staff tried to change Cravey’s mechanics from his natural throwing motion to a submarine style.
“It worked at first, but by the middle and end of the season it was a disaster,” Cravey said. “I had no idea where it was going.”
Cravey began the season as one of the Aggies’ top arms, but the coaching staff lost confidence in Cravey and he pitched just 12 innings all season.
The Aggies had the sixth best recruiting class in the country entering the 2009 season, but one of the side effects of attracting such an attention-grabbing recruiting class was that the Texas A&M coaching staff decided to strip Cravey of his scholarship.
“I struggled with the throwing motion and I lost the fun and the passion for the game,” Cravey said. “I got my scholarship pulled and had the opportunity to come back as a walk-on, and I decided to finish up at school for two years.”
In 2009 and 2010, Cravey’s junior and senior seasons, the righthander’s baseball career lay dormant and the native Texan lived like a typical college student until just before the end of his time in College Station.
“My senior year, I got the passion again and I wanted to pitch again,” Cravey said.
Cravey trained hard for a few months and then worked with renowned pitching guru Ron Wolforth, who has worked with many prominent pitchers such as the Diamondbacks’ Trevor Bauer, to regain his old mechanics and make strides in other areas.
“We focused mainly a lot of hip flexibility, being able to drive off my back hip, and using my legs because my previous delivery was all arms and using my lower half has helped me gain velocity,” Cravey said.
Buoyed by this new-found velocity, Cravey attended a Major League Scouting Bureau tryout camp to showcase his talents. The 6-foot-1 Cravey struck out all six batters he faced and impressed Marlins area scout Steve Taylor.
“He said I looked really good and he might give me a call tomorrow, and sure enough the next morning the phone rang and he wanted to sign me to a deal,” Cravey said. “So I was like ‘heck yeah.’ “
Cravey signed for $1,000 and pitched well in his professional debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League to finish the 2010 season. He had an injury-marred season with Greensboro in 2011 and appeared in only nine games.
Healthy in the first-half of 2012, Cravey was one of the best pitchers in the league. In his 18 appearances, Cravey has registered six wins and has limited hitters to less than three walks per nine innings. With a clean bill of health, Cravey attacks hitters with a 92-93 mph fastball that can touch 95. He also features a plus curveball and developing changeup.
On April 24, with starter Jose Fernandez and reliever Gregory Nappo combining for eight innings of no-hit baseball against Hickory, manager Dave Berg turned to his trusted reliever to close the door on the opponents and push the Grasshoppers’ performance into the franchise record books. Cravey retired the side in order to solidify the combined no-hitter.
“(Being named an all-star) means a lot because it is an honor and hopefully there are bigger and better things to come as I move up in the system,” Cravey said.