Kevin Gryboski (TRADING CARD DB)

Kevin Gryboski

This article was written by George Pawlush

Kevin Gryboski (TRADING CARD DB)Kevin Gryboski pitched parts of five seasons (2002-2006) in the major leagues. The big right-handed reliever with an excellent sinker spent the bulk of his time with the Atlanta Braves. As of 2021, he owned the distinction of being the only player to twice pitch in all five games of a League Division Series, having accomplished the feat for Atlanta in both 2003 and 2004.

Kevin John Gryboski was born to Gerald and Fran Gryboski on November 15, 1973, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. His father, a retired construction engineer, had played baseball at Sacred Heart High School in Plains Township, Pennsylvania; as a senior, he had been 4-0 as a pitcher and hit .485 to lead his team to the 1962 Wyoming Valley Catholic League championship. He later coached his son’s teams in Little League, American Legion, and Biddy basketball. Kevin’s mother still works in the billing department at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, Plains Township, Pennsylvania.

Kevin’s initiation into baseball came as a third baseman in the Plains Township Little League program. After attending Wilkes-Barre Area/Plains Junior High School from seventh to ninth grades, he opted to continue his studies at Bishop Hoban High School in Wilkes-Barre. At Bishop Hoban, he was cut from the baseball team as a sophomore. “You think that you’re going to make the team and then the coach says go home and work on things.” Gryboski said.1 The coach, Jim Maloney, explained, “We had a veteran junior and senior team that year. With over 50 players trying out for the few open spots, we didn’t have a lot of time to evaluate the newcomers.”2

Looking back, Gryboski said, “Playing on the Plains American Legion team and in the Teener’s League made me a better player in the long run.” He made Bishop Hoban’s team as a junior third baseman and the team repeated as Wyoming Valley League champions. Coach Maloney took notice of his strong arm and used him as a pitcher for his senior year. Despite a 4-5 record, he was named to the Wyoming Valley Class AA all-star team. His 1.75 ERA was tops in the league; he struck out 74 batters in 56 innings.3 At the plate he batted .391 with 13 RBIs.

That fall Gryboski enrolled at Wilkes University, a Division III school in Wilkes-Barre. As a freshman and sophomore, he also played basketball. The baseball coach, Bob Duliba, had pitched for four major-league teams from 1959 to 1967. He was impressed with Gryboski’s potential right from the start. “Just watching his stuff as a freshman, I knew that he would be successful. His ball really sank and exploded in his catcher’s glove.”4 During his first year at Wilkes, Gryboski went 2-1, with a 4.91 ERA, while adding five inches and 40 pounds to his already 6-foot, 170-pound frame.

That summer Gryboski was selected to compete in the Pennsylvania American Legion’s East-West State All-Star game, but the contest was rained out. After the Legion season, he played his first of three summers for Orloski’s, a team comprised of current college players and graduates. The team was coached by Jerry Greeley, who later became the head coach at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre. Orloski’s competed in three different Northeastern Pennsylvania leagues and played 45 to 50 games each year. “I could see the great progress that Gryboski was making each year,” said Greeley.5

As a sophomore in 1993, Gryboski improved to 5-4, 2.21 ERA. Wilkes baseball assistant Gerry Bavitz kept a close watch on him. “Kevin never wanted to come out of a game. Coach Duliba saw his potential early on and did a great job not to overwork him. We played seven-inning doubleheaders and Kevin averaged around 100 pitches per game,” he said.6

Professional scouts became frequent visitors to Wilkes’s 1994 games as Gryboski pitched the Wilkes Colonels to their first Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) championship since 1977. In the four-team MAC playoffs, he pitched the Colonels to a 7-2 victory over Messiah College in the one-game opening round. Wilkes (17-12) then shocked Elizabethtown College, which came into the final round with a 30-7 record, winning two of three games from the Blue Jays in the championship series. Gryboski was 6-4 overall, striking out 54 batters in 61 innings. He registered a stingy 2.14 ERA. Two of his losses came on a 1-0 four hitter and a 3-1 defeat in chilling 40-degree weather in the team’s season opener. Phil Gianficaro, of the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice, wrote about his prospects. “Major league scouts are impressed with his live arm and size, 6-5, 210 pounds, and his pitching speed that measures between 87 and 92 mph on the fast gun. The scouts noted that Gryboski needs experience against better competition and has to improve on his changeup and curve.”7

He was chosen in the 16th round (#436th overall) of the 1994 June amateur draft by the Cincinnati Reds. After hours of unsuccessful negotiations, Gryboski decided to return to Wilkes for his senior year. “It was a difficult decision to make,” he said. “I knew by not signing that I’d be losing my leverage in the 1995 draft. My decision to pass on the Reds’ offer was a little from the financial side but primarily due to academics. I promised my parents that I was going to graduate from college.” Gryboski was an Environmental Science major with a minor in Physics.

After a 5-4 senior year with a 3.21 strikeout-to-walk ratio, in June 1995 he was drafted in the 16th round again, this time by the Seattle Mariners. He was signed by Mariners’ scout Tom McNamara.8 His initial assignment was to the Everett (Washington) AquaSox of the short-season Single-A Northwest League. There, he was used solely as a reliever, appearing in 25 games, striking out 25 batters, and recording a 3.50 ERA over 36 innings with a 1-5 record.

Gryboski moved up to the Wisconsin Rattlers of the Single-A Midwest League in 1996. He made 21 of his 32 appearances as a starter after beginning the season in the bullpen. His 10-5 won-lost record covered a lack of control: he walked 62 batters, hit 12 and threw 12 wild pitches in 138 2/3 innings of work. The next year, with Lancaster of the advanced Single-A California League, he had a rude awakening. Used primarily as a starter, he went 0-7 with a 9.09 ERA in 67 1/3 innings and 15 starts. “This was one of my toughest years in baseball,” Gryboski recalled. “The California League had the reputation as being a hitter’s circuit. My velocity was still there but I was giving up a lot of home runs. Fortunately, the Mariners organization still had confidence in me and asked if I would be interested in playing winter ball in Hawaii, competing with the top prospects from each MLB organization as well as the Nippon Professional League and Korean Baseball.”

Back in Lancaster in 1998, he became a late-innings reliever; in 65 innings he racked up 73 strikeouts and allowed only four home runs to fashion a 2.65 ERA. The fine showing earned him a late summer move up for a two-game stint with Orlando of the Double-A Southern League.

Promoted to the New Haven Ravens of the Class AA Eastern League in 1999, Gryboski showed further improvement with a 2:1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 47 appearances. He opened the 2000 season again at New Haven but spent only 16 games there (1-1, 2.50 ERA) before being promoted to the Tacoma Rainiers of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He tasted action in 31 games for the Rainiers, compiling a 2-2 record, and striking out 35 batters in 41 innings. It was at Tacoma where he perfected his two-seam fastball under the guidance of pitching coach Chris Bosio. Gryboski returned to Tacoma in 2001 and was designated as the team’s closer. He finished the game in 50 of his 58 appearances, posting a 2-5 record and a career-high 22 saves. At age 27 he was about to realize his dream as a major-leaguer – however, it was not with the Mariners organization, where he had spent six years.

In January 2002, while vacationing in the Caribbean, Gryboski received word that he had been traded to the Atlanta Braves for pitcher Elvis Perez. He was invited to spring training by the Braves and stayed with the team until its final cut. Optioned to the Richmond Braves in the Triple-A International League, he spent only one game there before he was called up to replace the injured Albie Lopez. He made his major-league debut on April 13 in Miami, pitching the last 1 2/3 innings of a 14-inning defeat by the Marlins. Gryboski was tagged with the loss after Preston Wilson’s broken-bat infield single drove in the winning run.9 He did not allow a run in his next 13 outings.

The Braves went 101-59 to win their eighth straight division title in 2002. Atlanta’s bullpen was the majors’ best, combining for a 2.60 ERA. As a middle reliever, Gryboski appeared in 57 games, registered a 2-1 record, and produced a 3.48 ERA over 51 2/3 innings. Atlanta manager Bobby Cox was delighted. He said, “Gryboski found his sinker the last two weeks of spring training. And it’s a hard sinker – in the mid-90s. A guy who throws a sinker that hard is not going to give up many hits.”10 Because of his ability to induce double plays, he earned the nickname “Groundball Gryboski.” The Braves lost the NLDS to the San Francisco Giants, three games to two. He pitched in three of the contests, holding San Francisco scoreless over 3 2/3 innings and allowing only two hits.

Despite losing Tom Glavine to free agency, the Braves won another 101 games and the NL East in 2003. Greg Maddux was still an effective starter and John Smoltz a brilliant closer. As Smoltz’s setup man, Gryboski appeared in 64 games and was 6-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 44 1/3 frames. Opposing hitters grounded into 11 double plays against him. “I was a little more relaxed in the spring than I was last year,” he told Steve Bennett of the Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice. “This season I knew I had a job and what my role was. It was my job not to lose.”11 In September, Gryboski spent 15 days on the disabled list with tendinitis and a partially torn labrum, but he recovered in time for the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. He appeared in all five games of the series, allowing one earned run in three innings while striking out four. The Braves fell again, three games to two.

At season’s end Gryboski visited Dr. James Andrews at his Birmingham, Alabama, clinic to address his September arm issues. Andrews advised him either to have surgery or not to throw over the winter. Rather than have surgery and miss the 2004 season, he chose to rest. But during the early days of spring training, he experienced stiffness in his right shoulder. He feared the worst until the Braves’ medical staff determined that it was only scar tissue causing the soreness.12 Gryboski got off to a great start. Through May 22, he was Atlanta’s most effective reliever, allowing only one run in his first 15 1/3 innings through 17 appearances with a 0.59 ERA. Cox told Atlanta Constitution sportswriter David O’Brien that Gryboski had been super. “He’s a real weapon and has been for three years.”13

The Braves dominated the NL East for the tenth successive year, finishing 10 games ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies with a 96-65 record. Gryboski had his most outstanding season, appearing in a career-high 69 games with a 3-2 record and 2.84 ERA. In 50 2/3 innings, he registered 16 holds, saved two games, and induced ten double plays. In the NLDS he established a major-league playoff record by appearing in all five games of the series, the only pitcher to have accomplished the feat twice. For the third straight year, however, Atlanta was upended, dropping three of five to Houston. In his 4 1/3 innings on the mound, Gryboski gave up one earned run and struck out three.

In arbitration, Gryboski more than doubled his $377,500 salary, agreeing with the Braves to a one-year deal for $887,500 on January 27, 2005. In an effort to protect Gryboski’s tender throwing arm, Cox decided to use him sparingly during spring training. On March 6, Gryboski took time out to marry Leah Gaetano at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. In late March, Cox and pitching coach Leo Mazzone told the Associated Press that if Gryboski needed more time to build arm strength, he would open the season on the disabled list.14

Gryboski made the Braves’ Opening Day roster, but his 2.95 ERA during the first three and a half months of the season was misleading. Opponents were batting over .300 against him, and his percentage of inherited runners allowed was the worst in the National League. On July 21, the Braves traded him to the Texas Rangers for minor-league pitcher Matt Lorenzo. From 2002 to 2005, Gryboski had been a major contributor to the Braves’ bullpen, pitching in 221 games while compiling an 11-7 record and 3.32 ERA. In 13 postseason games he recorded a 1.62 ERA, striking out ten and walking five over 11 innings.

“When I joined Texas, I was really worn down,” Gryboski said. “As a middle reliever, arm wear comes, not only from pitching in games, but from the many times you get ready in the bullpen and don’t get into the game.” He spent less than a month with the Rangers. In just 11 games, covering 9 2/3 innings, Gryboski was tagged for 17 hits and 12 earned runs while issuing eight walks. On August 16, he was optioned to the Oklahoma City 89ers in the Triple-A American Association, where his pitching woes continued. In nine games, he allowed six earned runs on 14 hits in 10 1/3 innings. The Rangers granted him free agency on October 12.

Gryboski signed with the Washington Nationals on February 20, 2006, but did not make their Opening Day roster. He spent most of the season with the New Orleans Zephyrs of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He made a total of six appearances for the Nationals during two brief summer call-ups but allowed nine earned runs on 14 hits over 5 2/3 innings. He became a free agent at season’s end.

In January 2007, Gryboski continued his quest to return to the majors with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After spending most of spring training with the club, he was shipped to the Indianapolis Indians of the Triple-A American Association shortly before the season opener. He appeared in only 14 games during an injury-plagued year and posted a 7.32 ERA in 18 innings.

Gryboski’s final professional season was 2008. He signed a minor-league contract with the San Francisco Giants and pitched for the Fresno Grizzlies in the Pacific Coast League. In 52 games, still hampered by control issues, he was 2-6 with a 6.54 ERA over 53 2/3 innings. That winter, he finally submitted to shoulder surgery. “I just couldn’t go on any longer taking cortisone shots,” he said. Surgeons in Pittsburgh found that he had a 100 percent labrum tear, tendon damage, three bone spurs, and an injured rotator cuff. “After rehabbing the entire season, I knew that at age 37 my career was over. With decreased velocity I was sure that MLB teams would not take a chance on me.”

After taking a break from baseball, Gryboski returned to the game in 2014 as pitching coach for the Washington Wild Things of the independent Frontier League. From 2016 to 2018 he was the head coach of the Thomas Jefferson High School baseball team in Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania. He took over head baseball coaching duties at his alma mater, Wilkes University, in 2018 and remained in that position as of 2021. Kevin and his wife, Leah, are parents of two children, son KJ and daughter Kaylee. Gryboski is a member of the Wilkes University Athletic Hall of Fame (2005), Plains American Legion HoF (2011) and Luzerne County Sports HoF (2012).



Special thanks to Kevin Gryboski (personal interview with the author, March 26, 2020).

The author would also like to acknowledge the following subjects of telephone interviews: Bob Duliba (February 4, 2021), Jim Maloney (February 4, 2021), Jerry Bavitz (February 5, 2021), and Jerry Greeley (February 8, 2021).

This story was reviewed by Malcolm Allen, Norman Macht, and Rory Costello, and fact-checked by Kevin Larkin.



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also accessed Kevin Gryboski’s player file and player questions from,, and the Wilkes University Sports Information Office.



1 Unless otherwise cited, all Kevin Gryboski quotes are from a personal interview with George Pawlush, March 26, 2020.

2 Jim Maloney, Telephone Interview with George Pawlush, February 4, 2021.

3 Paul Sokoloski, “Pitchers Dominate Class AA squad,” Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, June 16, 1991: 22.

4 Bob Duliba, Telephone Interview with George Pawlush, February 4, 2021.

5 Jerry Greeley, Telephone Interview with George Pawlush, February 8, 2021.

6 Jerry Bavitz, Telephone Interview with George Pawlush, February 5, 2021.

7 Phil Gianficaro, “Kevin Gryboski Runs Up a Baseball,” Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice, May 29, 1994: 82.

8 Tom Housenick, “Graboski Signs with Seattle, Gets Off to a ‘Fying’ Start on Thursday,” Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice, June 7, 1995:50.

9 Eliza Marie Somers, “Gryboski Delivers Plenty of Relief for the Braves,” Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, May 26, 2002: 22.

10 Somers, “Gryboski Delivers Plenty of Relief for the Braves.”

11 Steve Bennett, “Gryboski Pitching with Confidence,” Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice, April 9, 2003: 50.

12 David O’Brien, “Gryboski Concerned,” Atlanta Constitution,” February 26, 2004: D3.

13 Dave O’Brien, “Improved Bullpen Staff’s Saving Grace,” Atlanta Constitution, May 22, 2004: C5.

14 Charles Odom, “Braves Close to Settling Bullpen as Opener Nears,” Associated Press (Pensacola, FL) News Journal, March 26, 2005: 33.

Full Name

Kevin John Gryboski


November 15, 1973 at Wilkes-Barre, PA (USA)

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