Rockies add Graves to retooled 'pen

Rockies add Graves to retooled 'pen

DENVER -- Right-handed reliever Danny Graves twice turned down the Rockies last year, but now he believes the Rockies offer what he hasn't had the last couple of years -- the chance to pitch.

Graves signed a Minor League contract with the Rockies on Thursday. The Rockies have been in the market for a late-innings reliever to join closer Brian Fuentes and free-agent acquisition LaTroy Hawkins, and Graves offers a low-risk option. His contract is worth $600,000 with $78,000 guaranteed. Incentives could earn him another $400,000.

Graves, 33, had 41 saves for the Reds in 2004 and has 182 career saves, but he saw inconsistent work with the Reds and Mets in 2005 and appeared in just 13 games last season with the Indians (2-1, 5.79 ERA). He pitched 33 games last season for the Indians' Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo (1-1, 4.03).

Having a feel for pitches, especially his sinker, through regular work became important to Graves in 2003, when he filled in as a starter for the Reds (4-15, 5.33), but he lost his 93-94 mph fastball in the process. The following year, however, was Graves' most prolific as a closer.

"A lot of people think that since I don't throw 95 mph, I can't pitch. But the bottom line was: The year I had 41 saves, I was topping out at 88 mph, but [the success] was because I knew a little bit about how to pitch," Graves said on Thursday. "The year I started took a lot away from me, and I wasn't able to get it back. But at the same time, I became smarter."

Graves said he believes his time in the Minors helped him regain his sinker, brush up his slider and develop a new changeup.

He hopes the work pays off in an impressive performance for the Rockies this spring.

"I think a lot of relievers understand that if you go to Colorado, you're going to get to pitch because of the park and the situations that come up in games there," he said. "Some people are scared to pitch there, but I think it would be a lot of fun.

"I'm going in there like this is my first big-league Spring Training with Cincinnati. I just have to show them I can pitch and get on the roster."

Graves is familiar with Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd, who worked in the Indians' front office when Graves began his pro career with the Tribe in the mid-1990s. Graves also said he knew and was intrigued by manager Clint Hurdle as an opposing coach and manager.

"Last offseason, the Rockies talked to me, and it didn't work out, but I called Dan and thanked him for the opportunity," Graves said. "They talked to me last year when I was with Buffalo, but I decided not to sign. But I knew we'd cross paths. Then I talked to Clint this offseason, and he really sold me."

Graves joins growing competition for bullpen slots.

The Rockies also have signed experienced left-handers Mike Gallo and Eric DuBose to non-roster deals. Although DuBose can compete for the rotation, he has bullpen experience.

The Rockies also intend to assess the health of right-hander Mike DeJean, who is recovering from rotator cuff surgery, and the club would like to retain recently non-tendered righty Chin-hui Tsao, who hasn't pitched since early 2005 because of rotator cuff issues.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.