by Josh Moore / A’s Farm Stockton Correspondent
It should come as no surprise that Sonny Gray’s first official minor league rehab start on Saturday attracted a lot of curious and concerned onlookers in Stockton. Among those in attendance at the nearly sold-out Banner Island Ballpark were A’s pitching coach Curt Young, bullpen coach Scott Emerson and hitting coach Darren Bush.
Five days before Saturday night’s appearance in Stockton, Gray made a decidedly more low-key return to the mound when he threw 3 innings in an extended spring training game in Arizona on Monday, which we detailed here. Prior to that, he’d been sidelined due to a lat strain suffered in a March 7th spring training appearance that saw him surrender 5 hits, 4 walks and 7 earned runs in just 2 innings of work.
On Saturday night in Stockton though, Gray looked incredibly sharp. He was originally scheduled for 4 innings or 65 pitches, whichever came first. Gray was so economical in his pitch count, however, that he was sent back out to complete a 5th inning of work. In all, he tallied 47 pitches – 34 of them strikes – while striking out 6 San Jose batters, walking none and allowing just 1 hit over 5 scoreless innings.
His form was fantastic and Gray looked extremely comfortable on the mound throughout the entire outing. Although Banner Island Ballpark’s speed gun can’t always be counted on, some scouts showed readings of 92-94 mph on his fastball, with it occasionally topping out as high as 95. Gray’s command was even more impressive though, as he found himself behind in counts just three times in the game – once with a 2-1 count and the other two times with 1-0 counts.
After striking out the side in the 2nd inning and tallying 4 strikeouts to San Jose’s first 6 batters, Gray faltered with location a bit in the 3rd frame. A fastball that caught too much of the plate was ripped to left field for a leadoff single by right fielder Christoph Bono. Although the first-base umpire later called Bono safe on a pickoff throw by Gray, his throw to first was on line and it appeared that he had picked off Bono. Later in the inning, another fastball caught too much of the plate and was lined to center field and would have landed for a single if not for an incredible catch by a diving Skye Bolt.
Gray went on to easily retire the side in order in both the 4th and 5th, barely breaking a sweat in either frame, and was eventually credited with the win after Stockton completed the 7-0 victory. A’s manager Bob Melvin announced on Sunday that Gray’s next appearance will be a 75-pitch outing for Nashville on Thursday. Following that, it’s yet to be decided whether he’ll need to make one more rehab start or if he’ll return to the Oakland rotation for his next outing. But if Saturday night’s performance was any indication, Sonny certainly appears confident and ready to go.
(Photo courtesy of Meghan Camino)
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