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Gray one step closer to return

After Saturday's rehab outing, righty to make one final tuneup on Thursday
Special to MLB.com

OAKLAND -- A's ace Sonny Gray is nearing a return to the starting rotation following Saturday's successful rehab start for Class A Advanced Stockton. Manager Bob Melvin announced the right-hander will throw a 75-pitch rehab start Thursday for Triple-A Nashville in what could be his final tuneup before being activated off the disabled list.

"Whether it's maybe your last outing or last couple [rehab] outings," Melvin said, "it's not trivial that you want to go out there and feel good, and have some success. He did that. I know he feels really good about how it went for him this time. … He'll throw 75 pitches, and we'll have a decision to make -- whether it's one more [rehab start] or whether he comes back to us after that."

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OAKLAND -- A's ace Sonny Gray is nearing a return to the starting rotation following Saturday's successful rehab start for Class A Advanced Stockton. Manager Bob Melvin announced the right-hander will throw a 75-pitch rehab start Thursday for Triple-A Nashville in what could be his final tuneup before being activated off the disabled list.

"Whether it's maybe your last outing or last couple [rehab] outings," Melvin said, "it's not trivial that you want to go out there and feel good, and have some success. He did that. I know he feels really good about how it went for him this time. … He'll throw 75 pitches, and we'll have a decision to make -- whether it's one more [rehab start] or whether he comes back to us after that."

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Gray has been sidelined since early March with a moderate lat strain, but said he felt no physical limitations on the mound in Stockton. The 27-year-old was scheduled to throw four innings, but stretched it to five after needing just 13 pitches to get through the final two frames. He finished five shutout innings, allowing a hit and striking out six while walking none. He needed only 47 pitches (34 strikes) to complete his outing, and was so efficient he had to wrap up his night of work in the bullpen to get to the 65-pitch target.

"I felt like I was controlling the strike zone," Gray said. "I was throwing four pitches for strikes, and the days that you're doing that, more times than not it's going to come out in your favor. I was just excited to go out there without any limitations, other than the pitch count. … Going into it, it was supposed to be a four-inning deal. To be able to pitch through the fifth, it was good. It's certainly going to help me down the road."

The A's pitching staff has been able to navigate through the first three weeks of the season despite being without Gray and more recently Kendall Graveman, the Opening Day starter who has been on the 10-day disabled list with a right shoulder strain since April 15.

Video: LAA@OAK: Graveman throws first pitch of the game

Oakland entered Sunday's tilt against Seattle with a 3.83 ERA from its starters, ranking seventh in the American League.

Melvin also said Graveman is slated to throw a bullpen session Monday before being re-evaluated.

For the first four games of Oakland's current five-game winning streak, Gray ran out the lineup card to home plate. As to not break the tradition, Graveman donned a No. 54 Gray jersey Saturday and brought out the card before the A's brought home the win. Gray said he was driving down to Stockton on Saturday afternoon, listening to the game on the radio when he heard about Graveman and the lineup card.

"Got another win, that's big," Gray said with a smile. "Manager's a little superstitious, so that was nice. It's fun, it's awesome, and it's a way to keep it loose, keep everything fun. … I got a good laugh out of that."

Worth noting

 A's outfielder Rajai Davis (hamstring) was out of the starting lineup for the third straight day, but Melvin characterized it as a precautionary move, saying he wants to take advantage of Monday's off-day so Davis can get more time to heal.

• Oakland acquired outfielder Ryan LaMarre from the Los Angeles Angels for a player to be named or cash considerations. The move was announced Sunday morning after the Angels designated LaMarre for assignment Tuesday. LaMarre, who has made 27 MLB appearances the past two seasons, will report to Triple-A Nashville.

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com based out of the Bay Area, and covered the Athletics on Sunday.

Oakland Athletics, Sonny Gray