Melvin announced that the 24-year-old Gray will take the ball for the A’s on Opening Day on March 31 against Cleveland Indians.
“I was excited,” Gray said when Melvin told him the news. “I don’t think it changes preparation. I knew I was going to pitch at some point. I’m looking forward to a bullpen [session] and my last start of the spring [Wednesday].”
During his rookie season last year, Gray posted a record of 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA and striking out 67 batters in 64 innings.
Gray has just 10 starts in regular-season play, but he’s no stranger to the crowds. He was the ace of the staff at Vanderbilt, and he ended up with a pair of starts against Detroit and Justin Verlander in the American League Division Series last October.
“He’s very quickly become that guy for us,” Melvin said. “He’s not afraid of the spotlight.”
Gray will be followed in the rotation by Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Dan Strailey and Tommy Milone.
Starting on the disabled list: Melvin said pitchers Ryan Cook (shoulder) and Fernando Rodriguez (elbow) and outfielder Craig Gentry (back) will start the season on the disabled list. Melvin said Cook and Gentry, who are active again after sitting out most of the spring, need a little more time. “They’ll continue to play minor league games,” Melvin said. Those won’t count against DL time, which began Friday.
A’s fall to Mariners: Yoenis Cespedes hit his first home run of spring training, but the Seattle Mariners rallied for four runs in the ninth inning to beat a split-squad of A’s 6-4. Stefan Romero’s three-run homer off the A’s Evan Scribner gave Seattle a walk-off victory.
Cubs take down A’s: Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jason Hammel had a shaky outing, but managed to limit the damage while Junior Lake hit three of Chicago’s six home runs and finished with six RBIs in a 10-6 victory over an A’s split squad. The A’s, who stranded 12 runners, scored two in the first inning and no more against Hammel.
Moves: After the game, the A’s sent pitchers Arnold Leon and Josh Lindblom and first baseman Nate Freiman to Triple-A Sacramento. The moves give the A’s 35 players in camp, including two non-roster players — outfielders Sam Fuld and Billy Burns, both of whom have impressed Melvin.