Gray Dominant in First Start of New Year
By Chris Biderman
Oakland A's 2011 first-round pick and top pitching prospect Sonny Gray had only two appearances above Double-A heading into this season, but he looked right at home in his first outing of 2013 with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. The River Cats earned their first win of the season on Sunday, by a score of 8-4.
Gray went 19 hitters without allowing a hit after Juan Lagares led off the game with an infield hit off Andy Parrino's glove. Gray showed explosive stuff, especially a dominant curveball, through six scoreless innings. He allowed just two hits and struck out four. The only other hit Gray allowed was a bloop-single to left from Reese Havens in the sixth.
"I felt pretty good, especially the last four innings," Gray said. "The ball was coming out of my hand pretty good and we made a few really big plays there in key points in the game."
The right-hander's fastball was clocked at 92-94 MPH consistently. He threw only a handful of changeups amongst his 84 total offerings (53 of his pitches were strikes). The only knock on Gray's outing was his fastball command, which he struggled with in the first three innings where he walked three hitters. But he found his rhythm after the fourth, helping him retire seven of his final nine hitters.
"It was a feel thing ... early in the game I was spinning off pretty hard," Gray said. "Last few innings I made a few adjustments and it came out way better."
Gray struggled with his command last season with Double-A Midland, leading to a somewhat inflated 4.14 ERA in the Texas League. The Vanderbilt alum spent most of the summer making mechanical adjustments to help find consistency in controlling his fastball.
"He's been kind of thrown into the upper levels and having to make adjustments against that type of competition isn't easy," Sacramento manager Steve Scarsone said. "So I don't think there's anything we can be disappointed with about his performance today. We needed that little jump right there."
Gray was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento late in the year and made two appearances. In his final appearance, in Game 5 of the Pacific Conference Championship Series in Reno, Gray went six innings, allowing three runs on eight hits with five strikeouts.
After striking out 11 Houston Astros over the weekend in his 2013 Oakland A's debut, Dan Straily was sent down to Sacramento to make room in the Oakland rotation for Bartolo Colon, who finished his 50-game PEDs suspension. Straily will join the River Cats' rotation on Thursday. The right-hander will likely remain as the top option should the A's need to promote a starting pitcher for the time being, allowing Gray more time to work on his command. But if Gray continues to throw as well as he did in the last three innings of Sunday's start, he could very likely make his major league debut before the All-Star break.
To view video from Gray's final spring outing, please click here.
Other News And Notes
By Melissa Lockard
- The River Cats brought out their big bats in their Sunday win. Michael Choice (1) and Michael Taylor (2) hit back-to-back homers (Choice's was a grandslam) and newcomer Stephen Vogt (1) added a two-run homer in a six-run seventh inning that paced the River Cats' win. Jemile Weeks and Vogt each had three hits. Grant Green had two hits and a walk. Sacramento had seven walks and 11 hits in the game.
- The Midland Rockhounds moved to 4-0 with a neat 4-1 win over the Arkansas Travelers. Carlos Hernandez was solid in his season debut, allowing just four hits and a walk in five shut-out winnings. Nate Long and Darren Byrd combined to throw four innings of one-run ball, with Byrd earning the save. Nick Rickles had a two-hit game and Jeremy Barfield recorded his first outfield assist of the season.
- The Stockton Ports crushed six homeruns in their 12-8 win over the Bakersfield Blaze to move their record to 4-0. Max Muncy (3) homered twice, while Bobby Crocker (1), B.A. Vollmuth (1), Dusty Robinson (2) and Wade Kirkland (1) each added a homer. The Ports have 12 homers in their first four games. Muncy has six hits and four walks in four games. Myrio Richard, Robinson, Muncy, Crocker and Kirkland each had two hits.
- The Beloit Snappers moved to 1-3 on the year after being no-hit by the Cedar Rapids Kernals in a 9-1 loss. The Snappers combined to strike-out 10 times and they walked four times. Vince Voiro struggled in his season debut, allowing 10 hits and eight runs (three earned) in 3.2 innings). Derek DeYoung had a solid debut, allowing one run in 4.1 innings. Tyler Duffey, Josue Montanez and Tim Atherton were the Kernels who combined for the no-no.
- The A's announced on Sunday that reliever Danny Otero had cleared waivers and he was outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento. On Saturday, catcher David Freitas was sent down to Midland to make room for Vogt on the Sacramento roster, while Nate Long was sent down to Midland to make room for Straily. Sergio Perez was placed on the Midland disabled list, while Jake Goebbert was officially added to the RockHounds' roster.