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Sonny Gray could be one start away from A’s return

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			Sonny Gray could be one start away from A’s return

OAKLAND – Sonny Gray says it feels great to be on a pitching mound “without limitations.”

Down to throw four innings and not more than 65 pitches for Class-A Stockton on an injury rehabilitation assignment Saturday night, Gray threw five innings and needed just 47 pitches (34 strikes) to do that.

With the right lat strain that sent him to the disabled list apparently a thing of the past, he’s now down to throw 75 pitches for Triple-A Nashville, after which he’s got a fair chance of coming off the DL in Minnesota at the end of the upcoming road trip.

“I was just excited to go out their without limitations,” Gray said Sunday morning. “It felt good. It’s another step in the right direction.”

He threw 94 mph, was able to throw all his pitches and showed typical Gray command of the strike zone. Clearly his low pitch count suggested he could have pitched a sixth inning, but the A’s weren’t going to let that happen.

Pitching coach Curt Young and bullpen coach Scott Emerson were among those in attendance, and they made sure Gray’s time was limited to the five innings.

“We didn’t want him to get up more than five times,” manager Bob Melvin said. “He threw the ball great. It’s a great lead into what could be his last (rehab) outing.”

If that proves to be the case, Gray could start either the first or second game in Minneapolis May 2 or 3. There’s a day off on May 1, so Melvin and Co. would have to decide which of the starters would get an extra day off because as the rotation currently works, Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton would be down to start those two games.

Saturday’s start was the first rehab start for Gray, although he’d throw three innings in a controlled game in extended spring training last Monday. He walked none of the San Jose batters Saturday, struck out six and allowed one hit to Giants’ prospect Christoph Bono. Stockton, blessed with a sellout thanks in part to Gray, scored a 7-0 win.

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