Sonny Gray as expected will start Opening Night for the Oakland A’s, manager Bob Melvin announced Sunday morning.
The 24-year-old Tennessee native is entering his first full major league season, but he’ll be counted on to anchor a rotation that lost two key members to injuries last week.
In other news, relievers Ryan Cook and Fernando Rodriguez and outfielder Craig Gentry will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list. Cook and Gentry will be eligible to join the club April 5, as their D.L. stints are retroactive to March 21. Rodriguez, coming back from “Tommy John” surgery, has thrown well this spring but will need a bit more recovery time.
Gray had endured an inconsistent spring, going 0-1 with a 4.02 ERA in five starts. But he was dialed in during Friday’s exhibition against the Giants, going 5 2/3 innings with no earned runs allowed, seven strikeouts and one walk. Giants announcers raved about his stuff in a game broadcast on CSN Bay Area.
The right-hander was on turn to start the March 31 opener against the Cleveland Indians at the Coliseum. When it was learned Jarrod Parker would need season-ending reconstructive elbow surgery, Gray was the obvious pick to get the honor.
He will become the fifth-youngest Opening Night starter in Oakland history behind Vida Blue, Catfish Hunter, Trevor Cahill and Blue Mood Odom.
Following Gray in the rotation will be lefty Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Dan Straily and lefty Tommy Milone. In addition to Parker, the A’s will also be without starter A.J. Griffin for most of April or longer as he deals with elbow tendinitis.
Cook has yet to pitch in an exhibition after inflammation in his throwing shoulder set him back early in camp. With him out to begin the season, Luke Gregerson is a likely option as a right-handed setup man to complement lefty Sean Doolittle. Dan Otero is another.
Gentry, a key man off the bench after being acquired from Texas in the offseason, also has been sidelined all spring by a strained lower back. He recently began playing in minor league games. His absence means non-roster invitee Sam Fuld is likely to make the club as the fourth outfielder to begin the season.