GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Sonny Gray had no trouble diagnosing his problems on the mound Sunday in the Oakland A’s 7-6 loss to Cincinnati.
“I really just didn’t throw enough strikes,” he said. “I was just kind of nibbling all around.”
Gray gave up five runs (three earned) and six hits in three-plus innings. It was his fourth start in a spring that, statistically, hasn’t been kind. Gray carries a 6.30 ERA, having allowed 14 hits and seven earned runs in 10 innings.
Nonetheless, the 24-year-old right-hander appears the favorite to take the ball in the March 31 season opener against Cleveland in light of Jarrod Parker’s forearm injury. A’s manager Bob Melvin said he would wait until after he gets results from Parker’s appointment Monday with Dr. James Andrews in Florida to announce his Opening Night pitcher.
But it stands to reason that the A’s will be cautious with Parker even if Andrews deems nothing seriously wrong with his arm. As the rotation stands now, Gray would be perfectly on turn to start the opener. Veteran Scott Kazmir, who pitches Monday, would be lined up to go the second game.
Melvin certainly did not sound concerned about Gray getting knocked around Sunday.
“He was just a little off with his fastball command,” the manager said. “He had a good curve ball. He’s still working on the changeup. He actually threw some good changeups. He was just a little off with the fastball.”
After striking out his first two batters of the game, Gray threw what he thought was a good changeup to Joey Votto. The 2010 National League MVP drove it the opposite way over the left field wall.
"It was impressive," Gray said.
He was touched for two more runs in the second, and the damage could have been worse had right fielder Michael Taylor not thrown a strike to home plate to nail Devin Mesoraco, who tried scoring from second on Billy Hamilton’s RBI single.
The Reds got two more in the fourth when Skip Schumaker shot a hard single back up the middle that knocked Gray from his feet.
The right-hander may be entering just his first full big league season, but Gray gained experience pitching under the big league spotlight in the A.L. Division Series last fall, when he started Games 2 and 5 against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers.
Parker, whose forearm tightness has hindered him most of camp, seems a strong bet to land on the disabled list barring a surprisingly fast recovery. He left for Florida trying to channel some positive energy.
He posted Sunday on Twitter: “Thanks to all my family, friends and fans for their support! I have a good feeling about the outcome of appt tomorrow. #GoodVibes”
Another player feeling good vibes this spring is catcher Derek Norris. He went 2 for 3 to raise his average to .400. Norris drilled a two-run double off the center field wall in the first off Reds left-hander Tony Cingrani. Norris is expected to fill the right-handed hitting portion of a platoon at catcher with either John Jaso or Stephen Vogt, though if Norris shows development offensively in the regular season, don’t be surprised if he were to start playing against some right-handed pitchers too.
NOTES: In addition to sending Addison Russell down to the minor leagues, the A's reassigned right-handed pitchers Matt Buschmann, Deryk Hooker, Philip Humber and Fernando Nieve, catcher Luke Montz and infielders Jose Martinez and Darwin Perez.
[RELATED: A's top prospect Addison Russell sent down]