Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin announced Sunday that right-hander Sonny Gray—who has yet to log a whole season in the big leagues—will get the ball for the March 31 opener at O.co Coliseum against the Cleveland Indians.
“He’s very quickly become that guy for us—whether it was last year in the playoffs or being the Friday night guy at Vanderbilt,” Melvin told MLB.com. “He’s not afraid of the spotlight, not that anyone else couldn’t do it as well. But we’re comfortable with him.
“Not only the poise, but the competitiveness, how driven he is and we’ve seen it all spring long here, too. Whether he’s throwing a bullpen, pitching in a game, it doesn’t matter to him, he’s the same guy all the time and takes his ‘A’ game out there and is prepared every single time.”
Gray, 24, was the 18th overall pick by the A’s out of Vanderbilt in the 2011 draft and rocketed up the organizational chart, making his big league debut last July.
In 10 starts and two relief appearances last season, Gray was 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA and 1.109 WHIP in 64 innings, striking out 67.
He made two starts for the A’s in the ALDS last October, shutting out the Tigers for eight innings in Game 2, allowing four hits and two walks while striking out nine, in a game the A’s won in the bottom of the ninth on Stephen Vogt’s bases-loaded single. Gray turned heads in that game by matching zeroes with Oakland nemesis Justin Verlander, who threw seven scoreless innings of his own.
Gray took the loss in Game 5 of the series, leaving in the sixth inning and later revealed he broke his left thumb fielding a comebacker by Prince Fielder to end the fifth.
This spring, Gray has a 4.02 ERA and 1.404 WHIP in five starts and 15.2 innings, with 15 strikeouts.
Gray got the call last July after posting a 3.42 ERA and 1.318 WHIP in 20 starts and 118.1 innings for Triple-A Sacramento, striking out 118.
He was originally drafted in the 27th round by the Cubs out of Smyrna (Tenn.) High School in 2008, but opted to go to Vanderbilt.
He will be the ninth straight different pitcher to start on Opening Day for the A’s, the longest streak in the majors. The complete list includes:
- 2006: Barry Zito vs. Yankees (L)
- 2007: Dan Haren at Seattle (L)
- 2008: Joe Blanton vs. Red Sox at Tokyo (ND)
- 2009: Dallas Braden at L.A. Angels (L)
- 2010: Ben Sheets vs. Mariners (ND)
- 2011: Trevor Cahill vs. Mariners (ND)
- 2012: Brandon McCarthy vs. Mariners (ND)
- 2013: Brett Anderson vs. Mariners (L)
- 2014: Sonny Gray vs. Indians (?)