OAKLAND — Having been besieged by injuries to their pitchers already, the A’s hope Sonny Gray doesn't become the latest to be sidelined for a prolonged period.
After leaving Saturday’s outing after five innings due to soreness in his upper forearm, Gray wouldn’t speculate on whether he’d be ready for his next start. He said he lobbied to go back out for the sixth in what unfolded as a 4-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs. But given the injuries that have piled up for Oakland’s rotation, manager Bob Melvin wasn’t going to push it.
“I felt like I could have tried to continue to pitch,” Gray said. “Hopefully it feels OK the rest of today. Coming in tomorrow, that will be the big test.”
Gray said his elbow began bothering him in the top of the fourth. He was visibly in discomfort after throwing a curve to strike out Dexter Fowler in the fifth, grimacing and biting his glove.
“I felt it in the fourth. Then I struck out Fowler with a curve ball, and I felt it again, and I think hey might have saw that,” Gray said. “When I came in from the fifth they said that was gonna be it.”
Added Melvin: “He didn’t come to me. He was just trying to get some heat on it and go back out there. But when he talked to the trainer about it, we felt like we had to get him out of there.”
Gray, who was sidelined two weeks with a strained trapezius muscle in late May, said he’s never had a forearm issue before. He’s hopeful it isn’t serious, but obviously any issue that surfaces with a pitcher’s forearm is cause for at least a degree of concern.
It wasn’t long ago that the A’s rotation seemed to be on the upswing. Youngsters Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea were showing improvement, Gray showed occasional glimpses he might be turning things around and Oakland had some young arms in the minors on reserve. But in the past two days alone, Jesse Hahn joined the disabled list with a shoulder strain, Dillon Overton was sent down after getting rocked in Friday’s loss, and now Gray is dealing with an issue of unknown severity.
Having to call on pitching depth is normal for all major league teams. What the A’s are experiencing this season is ridiculous.
From spring training on, Oakland has placed eight starting pitchers on the DL. Three of them — Chris Bassitt, Felix Doubront and Jarrod Parker — were lost for the season very early, though Parker always was considered a long shot to return to full strength due to past injuries. A fourth, Henderson Alvarez, has yet to pitch in the majors because of complications from shoulder surgery. Kendall Graveman is the only member of the season-opening rotation not to land on the DL.
Depending on Gray’s status, the A’s could be needing to fill three open spots in their next turn through the rotation, given the setback to Hahn and demotion of Overton.
“We’ve got a starting rotation on the DL, it seems like,” catcher Stephen Vogt said. “It’s very, very frustrating. It’s hard to watch because these guys work so hard. They all do a great job to put themselves in position to pitch every five days. And unfortunately, they can’t right now.”
What Gray found most vexing was the sharp stuff he took the mound with. The only runs he gave up came on Ben Zobrist’s two-run single in the third. He gave up five hits in five innings with two strikeouts and no walks. Vogt said Gray’s breaking pitches — curve and slider — were in top form.
“That’s the most frustrating thing,” Gray said, “feeling good out there and having some stuff, being able to make some pitches, and have it cut short like this was very unfortunate.”