ANAHEIM -- Sonny Gray zeroed in on the catcher’s mitt for his first pitch Wednesday night. Then he zeroed in on the stadium radar gun after it.
The A’s right-hander, making his first start since Aug. 6 due to a strained forearm, was very curious how his velocity was on a four-seam fastball to Angels leadoff man Kole Calhoun. It clocked in at 94 miles per hour, and that was a pleasant find for Gray.
“This whole rehab process, we hadn’t had any velo (recordings) or anything at all,” Gray said, “so after the first pitch I definitely took a glance back to make sure that everything was pretty normal. And it was.”
His outing was oh-so-brief — 18 pitches, just one scoreless inning that included Calhoun’s single and a check-swing strikeout of Jefry Marte. The short night’s work was by design, as A’s manager Bob Melvin said afterward that the plan was to limit Gray to 25 pitches. He wasn’t going to send Gray out for just seven more and then yank him.
Melvin liked what he saw.
“He looked good,” Melvin said. “When you’re off that long, you could be a little jumpy when you get out there. But he wasn’t. He threw the ball where he wanted to, he had a good breaking ball. It looked like he had good movement. He was very composed for an excitable guy that hasn’t been out there for a while.”
Gray threw his two- and four-seam fastballs and mixed in some sliders. He was happy with his command (13 of 18 pitches for strikes) and also that his mechanics felt in sync. Gray said his rehab work gave him time to focus on mechanics. Whatever tinkering he did, he was pleased with how everything felt Wednesday.
“This whole process I’ve gotten to kind of hone in on my mechanics a little bit,” he said. “ I’ve been able to watch and compare this and that. So coming back, I was able to try to get back my normal mechanics or what not. I tried to do that tonight, and it definitely felt better. I felt stronger.”
Gray will arrive at spring training in February looking to erase the memories of this year’s surprisingly tough campaign, which included a 5-11 record and 5.69 ERA. Perhaps getting back to some familiar and comfortable mechanics are a key. Asked what he takes away from this season, Gray said he’s learned that experimenting too much can be a bad thing.
“If the season doesn’t start off the way you want it to, or if you have a rough stretch, you need to stay the course and don’t try to do too much and don’t try to change things up,” he said. “If I have a bad outing, don’t over-analyze it. Go back and continue to do what I’ve always done.”
If Gray’s brief start gave him some peace of mind, it did the same for the A’s staff.
“It’s our guy,” Melvin said. “Granted, he had a bit of a tough season this year. He had to deal with a couple different injuries, and it was a bit of an off-year for him. But (it was important) just for us to know, as a team, that he went out there and was healthy and looked like the old Sonny.”