NEW YORK -- The Yankees believe that Sonny Gray will be a difference-maker as they hunt their first division title since 2012, and all eyes will be on the right-hander when he makes his debut in a new uniform on Thursday in Cleveland, opening a four-game series against the Indians at Progressive Field.
After a delayed flight, Gray landed in New York on Tuesday afternoon and shook off some rust with a light bullpen session at Yankee Stadium, about 24 hours after the 27-year-old was acquired from the Athletics in exchange for three prospects -- outfielder Dustin Fowler, right-hander James Kaprielian and infielder Jorge Mateo.
Gray said that ever since he started hearing rumors about the Yankees' interest, he had looked forward to the idea of suiting up for the club.
"It's something that you can't help but hope it actually happens," Gray said. "Now it is, now I'm here, and Thursday, all I can do is go out there and compete and pitch like I know how to pitch. There's going to be a really good team behind me. It's going to make it a lot of fun."
Gray is 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 16 starts this season, having thrown at least six innings in 12 of those efforts while permitting two earned runs or fewer on 10 occasions.
The former All-Star last pitched on July 25 at Toronto, taking the loss after allowing four runs (none earned) in six innings. Gray went 4-2 with a 1.37 ERA over his final six starts for Oakland, and manager Joe Girardi said that he believes the five-year veteran will be able to handle the increased expectations.
"We just want Sonny to be Sonny," Girardi said. "We feel that he has the opportunity to help us, but the other guys have to do their jobs, and you can only do your job. We're not expecting you to go throw a shutout every time out. Just go be yourself, and that will be really good."
While Girardi said that he is not inclined to permanently go with a six-man rotation, the Yankees will do so for Gray's first turn in the rotation. Jaime Garcia will make his Yanks debut on Friday, with Jordan Montgomery scheduled to pitch on Saturday and Luis Severino to follow on Sunday.
Following New York's next off-day, however, Girardi indicated that the team will nix one of its starters. Montgomery has been speculated to be the odd man out; the rookie left-hander is 7-6 with a 4.15 ERA, but he lasted a career-low 2 2/3 innings in his last start.
"I said I would not lean toward a six-man rotation," Girardi said. "In theory, it sounds great, but now you have six relievers and six starters. You get rid of one of your relievers that can give you distance, it puts you in a bind."