BALTIMORE – Sonny Gray is unsure of how he came down with back spasms, but the A’s ace was happy to be feeling better after playing catch Friday afternoon.
Scratched from his scheduled start Thursday at Toronto, Gray played catch for five minutes or so before the opener of a four-game series against the Orioles and said his back was feeling significantly better.
The plan is for Gray to throw off the mound Saturday, and the earliest he would rejoin the rotation is Monday night’s finale at Camden Yards.
Gray said he’s never dealt with back spasms before, and it caught him by surprise when he first felt pain Wednesday night.
“I was standing right beside one of the trainers when it happened. I just kind of bent over to grab something, and then I got halfway back up and I was like ‘What is this?’” Gray said. “It was just right in the middle of my back. I tensed up my shoulders …
“It was more or less weird that I didn’t do anything. But a lot of people who have dealt with a similar issue say that’s how it happens. You do something maybe earlier in the day, or the day before, and you make the wrong move … I really don’t know how to explain it unless you’ve had it before. Just the weirdest feeling.”
When his back still felt tight Thursday morning, the final call was made to scratch him that day and insert Jesse Chavez. Gray, aware of the awkward spot he put his team in, credited Chavez’s effort on short notice in a 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays.
The big-picture issue, from an individual standpoint, is whether Gray’s back affects his pursuit of the American League Cy Young award. His 2.06 ERA leads the league and he’s coming off a start in which he outdueled fellow Cy Young contender Dallas Keuchel of Houston.
Had Gray stayed on turn, he would have been set up for a marquee duel Tuesday against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw at the Coliseum. Obviously the chance for that matchup still exists if Gray doesn’t go Monday.
About missing a start against the vaunted Blue Jays’ lineup, Gray said: “You always wanna throw against the best of the best. Right now, the way the Blue Jays are playing, it would have been fun.”
On a more light-hearted note, Gray was just happy that he was able to cross back to this side of the Canadian border after losing his passport.
With lefty Brad Mills called up from Triple-A Nashville to start in Gray’s place Friday, it ends a streak of 19 consecutive A’s games started by a right-hander, the team’s longest since 1999, when they went a whopping 68 games without a southpaw starting.