Athletics

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

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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.”

Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

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AP

Ryon Healy trade has domino effect

The A’s wasted no time making their first major move of the offseason, and it has a domino effect on how their 2018 lineup will take shape.

The trade of young slugger Ryon Healy to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday paves the way for left fielder Khris Davis to start getting heavy at-bats as the designated hitter, the spot left vacant by Healy.

It also points to another move the A’s want to pull off — acquiring a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who presumably can eat up those defensive innings that Davis spends as the DH.

It’s a series of moves that isn’t all that surprising given the A’s roster makeup right now. Healy, who hit .282 with 38 homers in 221 games over his first two big league seasons, is capable of playing either first or third base. But Matt Olson and Matt Chapman secured those spots, respectively, with their solid showings as rookies last season.

“We’ve obviously talked a lot since the end of the season about adding to the bullpen,” A’s general manager David Forst said on a conference call Wednesday night. “At the same time, with the emergence of Matt and Matt, on the corners, maybe Ryon needed to be somebody we might have to move ...”

It makes sense for Oakland to find a way to shift Davis from being the everyday left fielder while still keeping his 40-homer bat in the lineup. Opponents have routinely taken extra bases the past two seasons on Davis’ throwing arm, and whether they add a newcomer to play left or shift Joyce or someone else there, chances are they can benefit from better defense in left.

The A’s also feel they got an important chip back from Seattle to help bolster a bullpen that ranked 13th in the American League last season with a 4.57 ERA. They received right-hander Emilio Pagan (along with minor league shortstop Alexander Campos), and figure that the 26-year-old Pagan is someone the A’s have pegged to be an immediate contributor in their ‘pen.

A 10th round draft pick in 2013, Pagan made his big league debut in 2017 and posted a 3.22 ERA over 34 games spread over four stints with Seattle. He endured a rocky first couple of outings but, after being called up for good in the second half, eventually worked his way into a late-inning setup role. Pagan struck out 56 and walked just eight in 50 1/3 innings, numbers that surely popped out to Oakland’s front office.

He’ll likely be called upon in middle relief to help set the table for Chris Hatcher and closer Blake Treinen, as the bullpen currently looks.

Campos, just 17, spent this past season in the Dominican Summer League, and Forst said the A’s were eyeing Campos last summer when they eventually traded Yonder Alonso to the Mariners. Oakland wound up getting center fielder Boog Powell back in that deal.

Did the A’s rake in enough for Healy? As with all trades, it will take time to judge. But it’s fair to say that Healy’s departure will be felt in a clubhouse that is characterized by the emergence of many young position players, and he was a part of that group. In fact, when Healy was called up in July 2016 — knocking Danny Valencia out as the regular third baseman — he became the first of several promising position-player prospects to establish himself in Oakland’s lineup.

He rented a house in the East Bay and eventually took in Chapman, Olson and Chad Pinder as roommates. There’s a fiery side to Healy’s on-field personality that was a positive for the A’s, and watching him play Oakland as a member of an AL West rival will make for entertaining theatre.

Another storyline is how Davis takes to being a regular DH. Forst praised Davis’ approach to his game and doesn’t anticipate any problems, adding that the A’s still want to get Davis some time in the outfield.

A's trade Ryon Healy to Mariners for two players

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USATSI

A's trade Ryon Healy to Mariners for two players

The rumors were indeed true. Ryon Healy was on the trade block.

And now Healy has been traded...to the Mariners.

The two teams announced the trade Wednesday evening.

Oakland will receive right-handed pitcher Emilio Pagan and shortstop Alexander Campos.

Healy burst on to the scene in 2016 with 13 home runs and 37 RBI in 72 games. This past season, he finished second on the A's with 25 home runs and 78 RBI. But he had become the odd man out in the A's lineup with Matt Olson and Matt Chapman solidifying the corner infield spots.

The 25-year-old is familiar with the Pacific Northwest as he attended the University of Oregon.

Pagan, 26, made his major league debut during the 2017 season. In 34 relief appearances with the Mariners, he posted a 3.22 ERA and struck out 56 batters in 50.1 innings. Against the A's, Pagan allowed one run in 5.1 innings over three outings. A native of South Carolina, Pagan was drafted by the Mariners in the 10th round of the 2013 MLB Draft.

Campos appears to be the prize of the trade, though he's a bit further away from reaching the major leagues. Just 17 years old, Campos signed out of Venezuela in 2016 and made his professional debut this past season. In 59 games for the Mariners' Domincan Summer League team, Campos hit .290/.413/.367 with 10 doubles, two home runs and 26 RBI.

MLB Pipeline ranked Campos as Seattle's No. 15 prospect.