Rewind: Gray's struggles 'not something I expect from myself'


Rewind: Gray's struggles 'not something I expect from myself'

OAKLAND — After sprinkling traces of optimism throughout his postgame comments following his previous start, Sonny Gray seemed lost for words after Friday’s defeat to the Yankees.

“It’s tough,” he said of his recent struggles. “It’s just … I mean, I don’t know. It’s just not something that I really expect from myself.”

For the fifth start in a row, the A's right-hander had trouble calling upon the command that last season vaulted him into the echelon of the American League’s top starting pitchers.

Last Sunday against Tampa Bay, Gray also struggled, but he came away from that somewhat inspired by what he claimed was a discovery in his mechanics that would allow him to keep the ball down in the strike zone and off the barrel of opponents’ bats.

He was unable to translate that discovery into results during Friday's 8-3 loss, when he lasted just 3 1/3 innings, walked four and and gave up five runs (four earned). For the season, the 2015 All-Star has allowed 38 runs, most in the American League, and seen his ERA rise to 6.19.

“For a while there, it looked like he had things figured out,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He was just missing with some pitches that got his pitch count up. Then in the fourth, it wasn’t as good. You continue to work and try to find it.”

[STIGLICH: Instant Replay: Gray hit early, A's smashed by Yankees]

Is Gray hiding an injury? That’s a popular question among fans right now.

He’s said unwaveringly that he feels good physically. After Friday’s game, Melvin added that Gray displayed some of his best velocity all season, touching 95 miles per hour with his fastball.

But something is missing — command of his stuff and command of critical situations during an outing. Gray may not have left as many pitches up in the zone as previous outings, but he acknowledged he’s also not showing the ability to put hitters away. When he gets to two-strike counts, he’s burying too many pitches in the dirt rather than getting hitters to chase.

One of Gray’s best attributes when he’s “on” is his ability to work out of trouble, avoid damage on the scoreboard when the bases are filled with base runners. He simply hasn’t been able to do that over a five-start stretch during which he’s gone 0-4 with a 10.38 ERA.

Protecting a 1-0 lead in the fourth with two runners aboard, he gave up Ronald Torreyes’ two-run triple to left-center. It seemed center fielder Coco Crisp was in position to make a running catch, but he couldn’t haul it in. That wasn’t the only time Gray’s defense abandoned him during the Yankees’ four-run rally that inning. Crisp badly misjudged Carlos Beltran’s liner that went over his head for a two-run double.

But this outing wasn’t about what might have been had the A’s played sharper defensively. Friday’s loss was another example of the A’s young ace trying unsuccessfully to steer his game back on course.

And as good as the A’s (19-24) played during their recent stretch when they won five out of six, it’s tough to envision them making an upward move in the AL West standings without Gray pitching like the All-Star he was last season.

“I think he’ll turn it around,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “His stuff is too good and he’s too much of a competitor.”


Vogt had his left wrist wrapped after the game, as he was hit by a second-inning pitch from Yankees starter CC Sabathia. Melvin said Vogt probably wouldn't play Saturday.

"It got me right above the wrist fortunately," Vogt said. "It doesn’t feel good, but it's not injured.”

A's lineup: Young faces throughout as Athletics start series vs White Sox

A's lineup: Young faces throughout as Athletics start series vs White Sox

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Astros-A's coverage begins at 4 p.m. with Pregame Live on NBC Sports California and streaming right here.

The latest A's youth movement embarks on its first road trip when they visit the south side of Chicago and the White Sox. Manager Bob Melvin has issued his lineup for Game 1 of the series.

Chicago White Sox:
1. Melky Cabrera (S) LF
2. Jose Abreu (R) 1B
3. Avisail Garcia (R) RF
4. Todd Frazier (R) 3B
5. Matt Davidson (R) DH
6. Tim Anderson (R) SS
7. Yolmer Sanchez (S) 2B
8. Kevan Smith (R) C
9. Adam Engel (R) CF
RHP -- Mike Pelfrey 

Oakland A's:
1. Matt Joyce (L) LF
2. Matt Olson (L) RF
3. Jed Lowrie (S) 2B
4. Khris Davis (R) DH
5. Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
6. Ryon Healy (R) 3B
7. Chad Pinder (R) SS
8. Bruce Maxwell (L) C
9. Jaycob Brugman (L) CF
RHP -- Jharel Cotton


New-look A's continue the youth movement with Maxwell's arrival

New-look A's continue the youth movement with Maxwell's arrival

OAKLAND — The A’s set off for Chicago on Thursday evening to begin their next road trip, and how their dynamic has changed over the course of one week.

They began their most recent homestand by cutting ties with veteran third baseman Trevor Plouffe to make room for hotshot prospect Matt Chapman. On Thursday, catcher Stephen Vogt suffered the same fate as Plouffe, getting designated for assignment to make room for another young player in Bruce Maxwell.

The calendar may still read June, with more than half of the season remaining, but the A’s are cleaning house, undergoing a reboot and playing the rest of 2017 with an emphasis on what lies ahead.

Five of the nine position players in their starting lineup for Thursday’s 12-9 loss to the Houston Astros are what you would consider “future” guys — center fielder Jaycob Brugman, third baseman Ryon Healy, second baseman Chad Pinder, Maxwell and right fielder Matt Olson.

They will shuffle around the diamond a bit, and Olson may only stay with the big club until Chapman comes off the disabled list (though Olson’s full-time status in the bigs doesn’t seem far off). Regardless, the plan is crystal clear — the A’s are hitching their wagon to their young core and are prepared to let them develop at the major league level, with whatever successes and failures may come with the growth process.

“We do get excited about giving these guys playing time,” A’s general manager David Forst said before Thursday’s game.

The Astros finished off a four-game sweep of Oakland with their 12-9 victory, jumping out to a 10-0 lead and then holding on after the A’s mounted a late charge. Glance up and down the box score, and those key young players were instrumental in so much that went right for the A’s.

Maxwell went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Olson drove in two runs. Pinder had two hits and an RBI. Brugman chipped in an RBI single and walked twice. That was the silver lining on a day that starting pitcher Jesse Hahn struggled mightily, allowing nine earned runs in just two innings.

“These guys are gonna be important,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “The last thing you want to see when you’re down 10-0 is guys just cash it in, and that wasn’t the case. These guys all have something to play for. They’re playing for jobs. And in the future, starting jobs.”

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, middle infielder Franklin Barreto will join the mix from Triple-A Nashville. For now, an immediate storyline is the health of Chapman, who joined the 10-day disabled list with a case of cellulitis (bacterial infection) in his left knee. The A’s checked him into a hospital Wednesday night to get an intravenous antibiotic, after his condition “plateaued” with oral antibiotics, according to Forst.

He said Chapman is likely to leave the hospital Friday, and the A’s are hopeful the rookie third baseman will be able to return when he’s eligible to come off the D.L. His stint can be backdated to Monday, meaning Chapman is eligible to return next Thursday at Houston.

He’s part of the youth movement that resulted in Vogt getting shown the exit. Maxwell sent Vogt a text message wishing him the best Thursday morning, and Vogt quickly responded, wishing him the best. That meant a lot to Maxwell, who didn’t learn until Thursday morning that his roster spot was coming at Vogt’s expense.

But Maxwell said he’s excited to be surrounded by so many players that he’s advanced through the minors with.

“Once we get everybody acclimated to each other and the game up here,” he said, “I feel like we could potentially set up a turning point for this organization for years to come.”