Repeated slurs directed at a succession of ineffective Mets relievers (Mel Rojas, Doug Sisk, Jorge Sosa) has long been a CSTB crutch tradition, but on the weekend Armando Benitez was cut by Toronto, let’s spare a positive thought for Danny Graves, who seems to be getting his life back together in the Twins organization. From the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Kelsie Smith :

After spending 2007 in the Atlantic League, Graves e-mailed about 20 general managers in January. He asked for a last chance, said his drinking was under control and he had found peace after his divorce. He was ready, mentally and physically, he wrote, to pitch again. Graves got three or four thanks-but-no-thanks responses and, from Twins GM Bill Smith, one maybe.

“Over the course of a year, we get a ton of e-mail,” Smith says. “Once in a while, something just strikes you. It was a heartfelt letter that said “I’ve made a lot of changes in my life, and I’m looking for one last chance.” Once in a while, you see that and you think, “well, what the heck.” It didn’t cost us anything to bring him down (to throw for scouts in Fort Myers). You might get lucky on the field, and maybe something benefits him off the field.”

Throwing in front of senior adviser Terry Ryan, minor league pitching coordinator Rick Knapp and vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff, Graves “made enough of an impression for us to sign him and give him that chance,” Smith says.

Graves began in extended spring training, the first time he’d been there in his career. He moved to Class A Fort Myers, then to AA New Britain and finally to Rochester.

“The timing of everything,” Graves says, “was almost like it was on time for Danny Graves.”

When he arrived in Rochester, Cliburn had a question for the reliever ” would he start?

Starting baseball games does not bring back good memories for Graves, who went 4-15 with a 5.33 ERA during his season as a Reds starter and who says he “always told myself that if I ever had to start again I would probably retire.” But throughout his evolution as a person, Graves has evolved as a pitcher. Unable to throw in the mid-90s as he did during his closer days, Graves says, he has finally learned how to pitch, throwing four pitches for strikes with a hard-sinking fastball that induces ground outs.

So when Cliburn asked about starting, Graves said yes. He’s now 2-1 with a 3.99 ERA in six starts for the Red Wings and, to his own surprise, “it turns out that this is the most fun I’ve had. I love starting now.”