Oakland A's MLN: Gray Shines In Midland Debut

Oakland A's 2011 first-round pick Sonny Gray made his Double-A Midland debut on Friday night, pitching 2.2 scoreless innings and striking out five. We have thoughts from A's Minor League Pitching Coordinator Gil Patterson on Gray's performance, as well as other news and notes from around the A's organization.

Gray Shines In Midland Debut

On a three-inning or 50-pitch limit, Oakland A's 2011 first-round pick Sonny Gray wasn't in-line to earn a win for his first Double-A start, but he still made a strong impression. The Vanderbilt alum tossed 2.2 scoreless innings against the Tulsa Drillers, striking out five, walking one and allowing two hits.

Although technically not Gray's first professional outing – he made an appearance for the Arizona Rookie League A's last weekend – this was Gray's first appearance in a highly competitive environment since he pitched in the College World Series in mid-June. A's Minor League Pitching Coordinator Gil Patterson is in Midland this week and he was impressed with the crispness of Gray's fastball.

"He showed a good fastball with some movement down in the ‘zone. A couple of guys who were charting him even made mention of that to me. Very good first outing [for Midland]," Patterson told OaklandClubhouse after Gray's outing.

Patterson also liked Gray's secondary offerings.

"He threw a few change-ups, which is probably the pitch he is going to work the most on. The curveball is outstanding," Patterson said.

Patterson also indicated that Gray would make four to five more starts before the end of the season. Gray will be stretched out to four innings in his next outing, then five innings in the following outing. Patterson said that Gray would likely be kept at the five-inning limit for the final two or three starts.

"If he comes to Instructional League, he will pitch with us a little bit there. We want to make sure to take care of him enough to get some work here and then finish up in Arizona for Instructional League," Patterson said.

While Patterson has a well-deserved reputation for improving the mechanics of the A's minor league hurlers, he is currently taking an observation-only approach to Gray.

"It's probably more of asking him what his keys have been [than trying to tinker with his mechanics]. Because if the wheels come off, say, strike-wise, you have to have something to help him with," Patterson said.

"Honestly, it's not just because he's our number one pick. We do it with all of the guys when we first get them. We kind of have a 30-day hands-off policy where we just let the kids get their feet wet. I like it. I think it is a good idea.

"In general, with most of the guys, for the first month you just let them pitch. It doesn't mean the coaches just throw the ball out and say ‘just pitch'. They still do all of their jobs, but if there is a mechanical flaw, they don't hammer them with it too much [in the first 30 days] because it is hard enough to pitch without thinking. If you are thinking about your delivery, it really throws you out of whack."

Other News and Notes

* The Midland Rockhounds played a doubleheader on Friday thanks to a once-in-a-blue-moon rainout on Thursday. In game one, Sonny Gray and the ‘Hounds defeated the Drillers, 5-1. Gray went 2.2 innings and veteran Lenny DiNardo finished off the game with 4.1 innings of one-run ball [minor league doubleheaders feature two seven-inning games]. Wes Timmons homered and had two hits, while Grant Green and Michael Spina also had multi-hit games.

* The Rockhounds swept the doubleheader with a 2-1 win in the nightcap. Anthony Capra allowed a run on seven hits and three walks in 4.2 innings. He struck-out six. Brett Hunter earned the win with a scoreless two-thirds of an inning. Trey Barham also recorded an out and Jared Lansford earned the save with 1.1 scoreless innings. Matt Sulentic led the way offensively with two hits for the ‘Hounds, who are now only three games back of San Antonio in the South Division.

* Chris Bostick is off to a red-hot start to his professional career. The A's 44th-round pick out of Aquinas Institute in New York recently signed with the A's after playing in the New York Collegiate League. In four games with the AZL A's, Bostick is nine-for-12 with two doubles, a triple, a walk and a stolen base.

* Bostick isn't the only hot hitter in the AZL A's line-up lately. Kelvin Rojas continues to be one of the top hitters in the AZL. He's batting .405 on the season and has maintained an average above .400 in each of the three months this season. He is second in the league in batting average and third in OPS. Jensi Peralta is batting .303 over his last 10 games and .303 on the season. Luis Baez is eight-for-his-last 13 with three RBIs, while Shane Boras four-for-his-last-seven with two walks and two RBIs.

* Zhi Fang Pan hit his first professional homerun on Friday night. The Vermont middle infielder is now batting .326 on the season. Dusty Robinson, the A's 10th-round pick this season, hit his second homerun for the Lake Monsters' in their 6-3 win. Nick Rickles, the A's 14th-round pick, also had two hits to raise his average to .354.

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