Gray ramps up innings with eye on opener

'I think he's ready,' Melvin says after ace's 6-plus frames in Minors game

Gray ramps up innings with eye on opener

MESA, Ariz. -- Ahead of his final spring tuneup, A's ace Sonny Gray made a guest appearance in a Minor League game Thursday to ensure he completed six innings and surpassed the 90-pitch mark in a controlled environment.

"I like it, because, no matter what, you're getting up and down, and you're going to get your work in and build up close to 100 pitches," Gray said. "It's a lot more monitored, which I like once or twice in spring, especially the long ones to make sure you get out there and get up seven times."

A's Spring Training info

The right-handed Gray totaled 6 2/3 innings, throwing 93 pitches in what turned into an intrasquad game between the Triple-A Nashville and Double-A Midland rosters. Gray pitched for Midland, facing several familiar faces, including Max Muncy, Matt Olson, Chad Pinder and Bryan Anderson.

A's manager Bob Melvin, who witnessed Gray's first two innings before returning to Hohokam Stadium to prepare for the club's night game vs. Texas, said Gray allowed three runs.

"When I was there, the balls were on the ground, there were a few hits that snuck through, and I think we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish," Melvin said. "He's a perfectionist, and anytime he gives up a hit or a run, he's not happy about it, but I was very pleased with how things went over there."

Gray to start A's opener

"I felt great," Gray said. "Fastball felt good, slider was good today, especially with two strikes again, and my curveball felt better. Early on, I didn't feel like I was attacking the zone as much as I'd like to, but the longer I went, the better I felt."

Gray said he "felt physically strong the whole day," especially compared to his last outing in which he was extended in the heat for the first time this spring and allowed six runs (five earned) in five innings against the Reds.

"I felt much better," he said. "I think the fifth, sixth, seventh there towards the end, I started to get into a little bit of a rhythm, and that's a good sign. I felt like my stuff was still pretty good."

Gray is scheduled to face the Cubs on Tuesday before getting five days of rest to prepare for his third consecutive Opening Night start, this one against the White Sox at the Coliseum on April 4.

"I think he's very ready," Melvin said.

Worth noting

As Gray did on Thursday, lefty Rich Hill will pitch six innings in a Minor League game on Friday. Hill was originally scheduled to face the Angels at Hohokam Stadium, but the A's will instead start top pitching prospect Sean Manaea against their division foes. It will mark the second consecutive Minor League outing for Hill, who posted a combined 15.26 ERA with 13 runs and 12 walks allowed in 7 2/3 innings in his first three Cactus League outings.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.