New White Sox reliever Kendall Graveman apologizes to Jose Abreu: ‘It was a good little icebreaker’

Graveman hit Abreu with a pitch in Game 4 of the American League Division Series last year.

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New White Sox reliever Kendall Graveman talks to reporters Wednesday at Camelback Ranch. (Daryl Van Schouwen)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The first thing right-hander Kendall Graveman did was apologize.

He was the pitcher who hit Jose Abreu in Game 4 of the American League Division Series last year.

Good move.

“That was a pretty good little icebreaker,” Graveman said Wednesday.

Signed to a three-year, $24 million contract after the season to be a key back-end piece of the White Sox’ bullpen, Graveman incurred manager Tony La Russa’s wrath after the game. La Russa believed Astros manager Dusty Baker ordered it.

“I didn’t mean to hit him,” said Graveman, whose first impression in a Sox uniform left observers thinking the team nice-guy award could be his to lose. “I know Tony gave me a little fit there in the postseason, and I apologized to Tony. I said, ‘I didn’t mean to, Tony,’ and he said he realized that now.”

La Russa joked that he’d make Graveman and Abreu room together on the road.

Abreu, who was hit 22 times last season, might have been sore about it then, but all is well now that they’re teammates.

“It’s OK; it’s fine,” Abreu said. “It’s my family now.”

A ground-ball pitcher who struck out 61 batters in 56 innings between the Mariners and Astros last season, Graveman had a 1.77 ERA while allowing one extra-base hit to right-handed hitters. He is eager to find his niche in a deep bullpen that also includes Liam Hendriks, Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Aaron Bummer and Garrett Crochet.

“And just being around the guys a few days, the character, makeup, you can already get a feel that there are no egos,” Graveman said.

Eloy: Play hard but ‘smarter’

Left fielder Eloy Jimenez tore his left pectoral muscle with a needless jump over the wall at Camelback Ranch in a Cactus League game, and it was a lesson learned. But he won’t stop playing hard, he said.

“Being smarter, but not stopping playing hard,” he said. “If I stop playing hard, I’m going to be a DH, and that’s what I don’t want. So I think I learned more about taking care of me, but [I’ll be] playing hard like always.”

Bring on the Cubs

In split-squad action Thursday against the Cubs, Hendriks is the only big-league pitcher slated for work. Andrew Vaughn (right field), Gavin Sheets (first base), Jake Burger (third base), Romy Gonzalez (shortstop), Seby Zavala (catcher) and Yoelqui Cespedes (center field) are among the starters in Glendale. Yermin Mercedes will DH and lead off, and Oscar Colas will play center field in Mesa.

Both games are seven innings.

Revised schedule

The original season-opening home series against the Twins has been rescheduled at the end of the season from Oct. 3 to 5. The original three-game series in Kansas City will be rescheduled as part of split doubleheaders May 17 and Aug. 10 at Kauffman Stadium. The third game is scheduled for Aug. 22, previously a day off for both clubs.

The lockout wiped off the first two series of the season. The Sox open April 8 in Detroit at 12:10 p.m. The home opener is April 12 against the Mariners at 3:10 p.m.

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