HOUSTON – Sonny Gray pronounced himself good to go for the A’s rotation Friday. Now it’s just up to the club officially to say when and where.
Gray, who has yet to pitch this season because of right shoulder stiffness, threw six shutout innings at Triple-A on an injury rehabilitation assignment start and said he feels his game is back and he’s MLB ready.
The likeliest return for Gray would be Tuesday in Minnesota against the Twins. Sean Manaea was originally on pace to do that game, but the A’s are strongly leaning to skipping Manaea for at least one start after tightness in his left shoulder forced him out of Wednesday’s starter after two innings and 34 pitches.
“I feel great,” Gray said after rejoining the club Friday afternoon. “I got up six times, threw six innings and I feel good again today. There’s no doubt in my mind I’m ready.”
Gray said it wasn’t just that he was able to throw up zeroes consistently in his two rehab starts that has him feeling this way. It’s not even that he struck out 14 in the two games without walking anyone. Or even that he was easily able to repeat 94-mph fastballs.
It’s the way the ball reacts out of his hand and the way the hitters have had trouble reacting.
“It’s important to me to be attacking the strike zone,” he said, “to consistently be 0-1 and 1-2 in the count. And that’s something I feel good about. I feel like it’s what I want to do when I’m out there.”
When he returns, Gray will be the second A’s starter to come off the disabled list in less than a week, joining Kendall Graveman, who threw six good innings Thursday against the Angels in Anaheim despite taking a 2-1 loss.
However, it’s possible the A’s will be putting a start on the DL sometime soon in the person of Manaea, the man who was originally down to start Tuesday.
Daniel Mengden, who has spent all of March and April recovering from foot surgery, will take his recovery up a notch Saturday in Arizona when he throws a batting practice session against live hitters.
The A’s expect to see reliever John Axford when they make their stop in Minneapolis next week. He’s coming back from a shoulder strain and has been throwing out to 120 feet. The next step for him would be throwing batting practice, and the A’s want to be able to watch him do in as the perhaps could join the club mid-month.