OAKLAND – When the phone rang at 8:30 Monday morning and Sonny Gray was on the other end, A’s head trainer Nick Paparesta knew it wasn’t good news.
Gray came down with food poisoning in the middle of the night, serious enough to require a trip to the hospital Monday to receive three bags of I.V. fluids and some anti-vomiting medication. It was a relatively easy decision to scratch the A’s All-Star right-hander for Monday’s Opening Night start against the Chicago White Sox. The unknown is whether Gray will be able to take the ball Tuesday night. If he can’t, No. 3 starter Chris Bassitt is keeping himself prepared in case he’s asked to move up a day to pitch.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said he’s hopeful Gray can go Tuesday, and Paparesta said there’s an “outside chance” Gray will pitch. But that depends on how Gray is feeling Tuesday morning. Gray actually made it to the ballpark before Monday night’s game, and word was he appeared in pretty good condition given all that he’s been through.
“I think the smartest thing is just err on the side of caution and be intelligent about what we’re doing here,” Paparesta said, “instead of sending a guy out with an empty stomach who hasn’t been able to keep anything down for 24 hours and expect him to perform. And obviously, fatigue is the precursor to potential further injury … If he feels better by the end of the night, we’ll have better idea by morning if he’s ready to go.”
Though the stomach flu made its way through Oakland’s clubhouse during the spring, Paparesta said Gray’s symptoms come on more abruptly and were longer lasting, pointing to food poisoning. No one associated with the A’s was saying where Gray ate Sunday night that may have gotten him sick, but Paparesta did say other people in Gray’s dinner party were exhibiting some symptoms too.
Melvin said he gave left-hander Rich Hill a call around 12:30 p.m. today, alerting Hill that he’d be making his A’s debut in Monday night’s season opener, a day earlier than he expected. Melvin expressed confidence in Hill, while at the same time saying how unfortunate it was that the A’s weren’t able to send Gray – their ace and a Cy Young finalist – to the mound in the opener.
“It is 1 out of 162, but, you know, it’s a first look, a first impression, and you want to put on a good show for your fans,” Melvin said. “And everybody wants to watch Sonny Gray pitch. But Rich is ready for it. He’s pitching on regular rest, and when I talked to him early this afternoon he was ready to go.”
The news doesn’t appear good for fifth starter Felix Doubront. After leaving Saturday’s exhibition with what was described as forearm tightness, Paparesta said an MRI showed Doubront has some “fibrous tearing” in his ulnar collateral ligament along with a muscle strain. Doubront is headed to Cincinnati next Monday for a second opinion, but any damage to the ligament indicates that Tommy John surgery is a possibility.
“When we had the MRI done, it wasn’t a definitive determination (that surgery was needed),” Paparesta said. “That’s why we’re reaching out for a second opinion.”
Jesse Hahn remains the likely candidate to be called up to start in Doubront’s place Friday at Seattle, though Melvin wasn’t saying yet who would get the ball that day.