CINCINNATI -- Reds pitcher Sonny Gray was preparing to spend his All-Star break in Florida with his family to celebrate the birthday of his wife, Jessica. All of that changed with a phone call from manager David Bell on Saturday night with president of baseball operations Dick Williams also on the line.
Gray learned he was added to the National League All-Star roster to replace Max Scherzer, who is dealing with a stiff back.
“You did know these things happen, so, you are kind of hoping, but you never know,” Gray said on Sunday. “I'm just super, very excited that I did get the opportunity for sure. I tried to call my wife like 12 times in a row and she didn't answer.
“She was packing, she actually called me back and said, 'what do you want?' I said, 'well...' It was cool. We stayed up and talked for a while. I don't know how to describe the feeling -- that feeling -- but it's a pretty surreal moment.”
Over 17 starts for Cincinnati this season, Gray is 5-5 with a 3.59 ERA and 1.185 WHIP. His previous start was his best of 2019, when he threw eight scoreless innings with four hits, one walk and 12 strikeouts in a 3-0 win over the Brewers on Wednesday.
The Reds will have two representatives in Cleveland tonight for the All-Star Game, presented by Mastercard. Fellow starter Luis Castillo was named to the NL club on June 30.
“You have two guys in your starting rotation that [are] going to represent the Reds in the All-Star Game. That’s always a good thing,” said Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson, who also worked with Gray as a pitching coach at Vanderbilt University.
This will be the 29-year-old Gray’s second All-Star experience. While with the A’s in 2015, he was named to the American League team but did not pitch in the Midsummer Classic when it was held at Great American Ball Park.
“That one, I knew pretty much a month before the All-Star Game,” Gray said. “This first half has kind of been -- started good, went through a tough stretch there for three or four starts and then you try to pick it back up and put some quality outings together as well. I feel like I'm throwing the ball great right now. I feel good. I think just that, if you think about it, the last time I was in Cleveland and came to Cincinnati for the All-Star Game. Now I’m in Cincinnati and going to Cleveland for the All-Star Game. That's pretty much the same.”
The Reds acquired Gray in a January 21 trade with the Yankees and signed the right-hander to a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension as a condition of the deal. He has given the rotation a boost as Reds starters entered Sunday with the second-best ERA in the NL.
Joining Cincinnati and rejoining Johnson has been a boost for Gray. Following a mostly successful five seasons with Oakland, where he was 44-36 with a 3.42 ERA, he struggled with New York. In 41 games, with 34 starts for the Yankees, he was 15-16 with a 4.51 ERA and found himself out of the rotation for a stretch last season.
“I've always said I've known what kind of pitcher I was,” Gray said. “Being here and making that transition to Cincinnati has been such an amazing experience and it's been an amazing, three or four, five months now for me and my whole family. We all thoroughly enjoy everything that has to do with this city and this team and the people that are here and this organization. “To be back with DJ has been a blessing. It feels like he's taught me how to pitch twice now. He's hands-down the best pitching coach that there is.”
Said Johnson: “From my standpoint, I don’t look at it that I taught him how to pitch twice. I just maybe prompted him to get back to who he was.”
Not only did Johnson know the type of pitcher Gray was, he knew his personal makeup as well. He made sure general manager Nick Krall also knew when the club considered making the trade with the Yankees.
“It was just the idea that I would bet on him as a person,” Johnson said. “I know what kind of last couple of years he had. But I also know him really well. I just wanted Nick to know how much I would bet on him as a person. I still kind of hold to that. He’s the right kind of kid. He’s good for our team. He’s good for our clubhouse. Certainly, he’s been good for our pitching staff. It’s a really awesome thing to watch him work.”
The All-Star Game presented by Mastercard will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.