A’s right-hander Sonny Gray will be shut down from throwing for three weeks with a lat strain, manager Bob Melvin told reporters in Arizona on Thursday.
That means Gray is assured of starting the season on the disabled list and most likely would miss most of April as well.
Needless to say, it’s a significant blow to a club that was hoping to wipe the slate clean after injuries decimated the pitching staff throughout last season. Despite an off-year in 2016 that included two trips to the disabled list, Gray was looked upon as a pitcher who could bounce back and once again anchor Oakland’s rotation.
The lat strain is being characterized as moderate. After a sharp outing in his Cactus League debut, Gray issued four walks and three wild pitches in his second start Tuesday.
The A’s will now lean on a core of Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton to lead their rotation out of the regular-season gate, with Graveman a strong candidate for the Opening Day assignment based on his solid performance last year.
Considering the fifth starter spot was already up for grabs, Gray’s absence leaves two spots open at the back of the rotation. Jesse Hahn, Andrew Triggs and Raul Alcantara appear the leading candidates for those two spots, with young right-handers Paul Blackburn and Daniel Gossett also in the mix.
The hardware just keeps rolling in for the Oakland A's.
Just look at the list of awards the A's have claimed over the past two weeks:
• AL Manager of the Year -- Bob Melvin
• Sporting News AL Manager of the Year -- Melvin
• MLB Executive of the Year -- Billy Beane
• Two Gold Gloves -- Matt Chapman and Matt Olson (plus two more finalists in Jed Lowrie and Marcus Semien)
• AL Platinum Glove -- Chapman
• Wilson Defensive Player of the Year -- Chapman
"It's really special," A's general manager David Forst said. "Seeing the individual awards has been great. It means a lot to everybody in the organization."
That list doesn't even include Edwin Jackson, who was named a finalist for the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award. The winner will be announced Monday.
The A's also were represented in the AL Cy Young Award and MVP voting -- Blake Treinen tied for sixth in the Cy Young race, and four A's finished in the top 20 of the MVP voting: Chapman (seventh), Khris Davis (eighth), Treinen (tied for 15th), and Jed Lowrie (tied for 20th).
"When it was announced on the network that Bob (Melvin) had won (AL Manager of the Year), you could hear the applause from all corners of our new office in Jack London Square," Forst said. "That was the case for both Gold Glove Awards, and really everything this offseason that has kind of energized the organization. It has been really special the last month."
Quite the momentum to take into an important offseason, as the A's search for starting pitching and other components that can help return them to the playoffs.
It could be Sonny again in Oakland, but there's reportedly still a long way to go.
The A's reached out to the Yankees about acquiring right-handed pitcher Sonny Gray, "but there is no present momentum in talks," MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported Friday.
Last week, Fancred's Jon Heyman reported the A's were interested in re-acquiring Gray, who pitched in Oakland from 2013 to 2017 before being traded to New York. As Morosi noted, they've had no problem bringing back former pitchers, and there's good reason that a return to Oakland could bring the best out of Gray.
For one thing, he was a much better pitcher away from Yankee Stadium since the Bronx Bombers acquired him at the trade deadline in 2017. Gray went 6-7 with a 6.55 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in 88.0 innings in the Bronx. By contrast, he was 9-9 with a 2.84 ERA and 1.18 WHIP on the road. In 386.0 innings at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum with the A's, Gray was 25-20 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.
Injuries to promising young starters such as Sean Manaea and A.J. Puk forced the A's to use a patchwork starting rotation down the stretch last season, and the team relied on a bullpenning strategy en route to its first playoff appearance in four years. As a result, A's executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane identified starting pitching as the team's top priority this offseason.
[ROSS: How Patrick Corbin's contract could affect A's starting pitching market]
[MORE: Did Nathan Eovaldi's playoff heroics put him out of A's price range?]
Re-acquiring Gray would maintain the approach that kept the rotation afloat last season but offer the A's much more upside than bringing back Cahill and Anderson. With the Yankees actively looking to trade Gray, it makes a lot of sense for both teams.
Based on Morosi's report, it sounds like they'll have to start picking up the phone, though.