MESA, Ariz . – Stephen Vogt raved about Sonny Gray’s pitches Friday, at least those he could follow into his catcher’s mitt.
At one point in Gray’s three-inning simulated game, Vogt was expecting a sinker from the A’s ace.
How’d that turn out?
“It was supposed to be a sinker and ended up cutting (the opposite direction) about three feet -- absolutely disgusting,” Vogt said. “That happens with Sonny all the time.”
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Gray appeared locked in during a 42-pitch outing in which he faced Jake Smolinski, Joey Wendle and Renato Nunez, who rotated one after the other to give Gray all the work he needed. It was an informal outing, tucked away on the back field beyond center field at Hohokam Park, with bench coach Mark Kotsay and special assistant Scott Hatteberg rotating at first base as the only defenders on the field, and pitching coach Curt Young calling balls and strikes from behind the mound.
Gray’s only mistake came on a changeup that Nunez launched for a towering homer over the left field wall (Gray semi-jokingly referred to the pitch as “my new splitty”). The unofficial count had Gray with two hits allowed, the one run, no walks and four strikeouts.
Toward the end of his outing, he was able to call out game-like scenarios he wanted to pitch in – “runner on second, two outs.”
The A’s have delayed Gray’s exhibition debut so he could work in that kind of controlled environment, a plan they also went with last spring. But the right-hander’s next outing will be against a real opponent. His schedule would have him throwing Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox.
“I’m really excited to get out there next time, with the guys behind me and more of a team atmosphere,” Gray said.
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His intensity was cranked up as if it were a real game. When Vogt called a pitch that was out of the ordinary for the situation at the time, Gray called his catcher out for a chat.
“He was so mad at me because I called a pitch that I normally wouldn’t call,” an amused Vogt said.
Reliever John Axford also threw an inning in between one of Gray’s frames. Axford recorded two quick outs, then gave up three consecutive singles before striking out Nunez.
“His ball had really good life,” Vogt said. “He’s got a little hesitation, and the ball explodes out of his hand.”