MESA, Ariz. — Sonny Gray won’t be an option for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, after the tournament’s insurance carrier declined to cover the A’s right-hander for the tournament.
Gray feels great physically now, stressed Oakland general manager David Forst, but last season Gray spent more than 60 days on the disabled list for trapezius and forearm issues, and he also finished August on the D.L. Both of those criteria landed him on the “chronic condition player” list that keeps players out of the WBC.
Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin was denied eligibility for the WBC based on similar criteria.
As it was, Gray was only scheduled to join Team USA for the second round if the Americans made it that far.
“I know Sonny’s bummed, he wanted to pitch,” Forst said. “Again, we were excited to let him do that.”
‘It’s an unfortunate thing, but at the same time it allows me to slow down here and get myself as ready as I can for the beginning of the season,” Gray said. “I know it didn't work out but to have that opportunity to be asked to play is humbling and something that maybe in future can work out.”
MLB pushed for an exception to let Gray pitch, according to Forst, but it wasn’t granted by the insurance company.
“Nobody can play in the tournament if you’re not covered by the insurance carrier,” Forst said.
With Gray now out of the WBC for certain, the A’s pushed his first exhibition start back from Monday to Wednesday since there’s less urgency to have him ready for possible WBC duty. That had a ripple effect on Oakland’s rotation.
Minor league right-hander Daniel Gossett will now start Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels. Kendall Graveman, originally set to pitch Sunday, goes Monday against the Giants, with Sean Manaea also taking the mound in that game as was planned. Jharel Cotton and Andrew Triggs remain in line to both pitch Tuesday.
It’s an unusual turn of events, but the upshot is that three of the five players from the A’s 40-man roster scheduled to participate in the WBC ultimately will not. Left fielder Khris Davis (Mexico) and reliever Liam Hendriks (Australia) voluntarily withdrew. Reliever John Axford is pitching for Canada and fellow reliever Santiago Casilla is still scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, though the longer Casilla remains out of camp while his visa process plays out in his home country, the more it would seem to possibly put his WBC status in jeopardy.
“At some point it may become an issue, but it’s not yet,” Forst said.