Right-hander earns honor for second consecutive year
By Barry M. Bloom
MESA, Ariz. -- Right-hander Sonny Gray will be the Opening Night starter for the A's against the Rangers on April 6 at the O.co Coliseum, manager Bob Melvin said on Monday morning.
"I do have a big announcement today. You guys may want to sit down," Melvin told reporters while standing in the A's dugout at Hohokam Stadium a few hours before his club was scheduled to play the Dodgers in a Cactus League game at Camelback Ranch.
After naming Gray, Melvin added: "I know you're all shocked."
It's the second consecutive season-opening assignment for Gray, the 18th overall selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He didn't earn a decision last year in a 2-0 loss to the Indians.
Scott Kazmir was the other possible choice, but Melvin said the left-hander will start either the second or third contest of the season-opening four-game series against Texas. The rest of the five-man rotation is wide open, and it may not be determined until the A's break camp on April 1, Melvin said.
Gray was 14-10 with a 3.08 ERA in 33 starts last season, and he is 19-13 with a 2.99 ERA in the 45 games (43 starts) in his two-year Major League career.
"It was a matter of letting [Gray] know for sure," Melvin said. "But I mean, he's made for this. It's who he is. He's extremely competitive. He's talented. He loves the spotlight games. If anyone was made for it, it was him."
Gray made his Major League debut on July 10, 2013, and by the end of that year, he was a dominant force in the American League Division Series, which the A's lost in five games to the Tigers. Gray was the starter in Game 2 of the series at home, matching Justin Verlander with eight innings of four-hit shutout ball. The A's won the game, 1-0, in the bottom of the ninth.
Later in the series and again in Oakland, when it came to choosing between veteran Bartolo Colon and the then 23-year-old rookie Gray against Verlander in the final game, Gray was sent out to start. He lasted two batters into the sixth, and Detroit won, 3-0, as Verlander whiffed 10.
"We had a tough decision to make that day," Melvin recalled. "We had a guy in Bartolo who was getting Cy Young Award votes, but based on what Sonny did in Game 2, we decided on him. To this day, I still think it was the right thing to do."