Gray feels refreshed in first start off DL

A's right-hander shows ace-like form in 5-inning return

Gray feels refreshed in first start off DL

HOUSTON -- The A's decision to have Sonny Gray pitch against the Astros on Sunday, rather than put him through the motions of a Minor League rehab start, stemmed from a call made by the pitcher himself.

Friday night, after hearing Rich Hill had been scratched from his Saturday start in Houston because of a groin issue and was unlikely for Sunday, Gray phoned head trainer Nick Paparesta and told him, "I can do it."

"I felt comfortable, and I was ready," Gray said. "I wanted to get here. I talked to [manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young], and we made the decision for me to come here, so I got on a plane and got in last night."

Just like that, Gray was back, and in vintage form, too. The right-hander's five-inning, one-run performance in his return from the disabled list in Oakland's 5-2 loss provided the only good news of the day for the streaky A's, who suffered a three-game sweep on the heels of a five-game winning streak.

The right-hander scattered five hits, his lone blemish a solo home run to Carlos Gomez in the fifth.

"He's still the anchor of this staff," catcher Stephen Vogt said, "and he pitched like it today."

"We weren't able to come away with a win, but I wanted to get back, wanted to get back with the guys and wanted to pitch," Gray said. "If I felt comfortable enough to pitch in Stockton, I felt like I could be ready to go here. I didn't really want to wait until Friday to pitch in Cincinnati. If they were going to give me a chance, I wanted to be back here."

Gray departed with a 2-1 lead in hand, only to watch it disappear in the sixth when Evan Gattis homered off lefty Daniel Coulombe. Melvin didn't want his ace surpassing the 75-pitch mark, explaining Gray's removal after 69 pitches.

The life on them was exceptional, his movement mirroring that of his past performances, before he experienced a trapezius strain that limited his arm slot and extension, not to mention his results: Gray had a 6.19 ERA at the time he was placed on the DL on May 22.

"It's kind of what I've done the majority of my career, attacking the zone with my heater," Gray said. "After taking the seven days off from throwing and doing some rehab, it just feels the ball can come out well, and it's coming out with life and velo, and my curveball's sharp. That's the big difference."

Gray touched 96 mph with his fastball, consistently staying in the 94-95 mph zone while inducing seven groundouts, compared to just two in the air. He struck out five and walked one.

"Sonny looked great," Vogt said. "His fastball had really good movement and life. Obviously the velocity was there, too. Just the conviction and the freeness he was throwing with, I thought looked like him. He had his movement down in the zone and was getting ground balls ... and swing-and-misses with his breaking balls. That's Sonny. He looked outstanding."

"To get deeper in the game and pitch like I'm capable of doing," Gray said, "it's something I look forward to getting back into. It's just nice to be able to go out there and worry about making your pitches and letting it fly."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.