TAMPA, Fla. -- Sonny Gray got the word from Athletics executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane on the morning of July 31, 2017, learning that he was officially heading to the Yankees. A broad grin spread across the right-hander's face, excited to once again enjoy a pennant race.After
TAMPA, Fla. -- Sonny Gray got the word from Athletics executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane on the morning of July 31, 2017, learning that he was officially heading to the Yankees. A broad grin spread across the right-hander's face, excited to once again enjoy a pennant race.
After securing a fresh Yankees cap for his son, Gunnar, Gray's next order of business was to relocate his family some 3,000 miles away. As the final months of the regular season bled into a thrilling playoff run, Gray's life resembled a whirlwind. He loved that wild ride, but is looking forward to a more settled 2018.
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"On the field, it was easier. It's the same game," Gray said. "But the day-in and day-out, every day, how am I going to get to the field today? Where are we going to live? Stuff like that, it's just new. We're moving from almost as far away as you can get, all the way across the country. That was probably the most difficult part."
After 4 1/2 seasons in Oakland, Gray and his wife, Jessica, gamely took on the East Coast. The Yankees helped the young family find places to live, suggesting listings in Manhattan and Greenwich, Conn. This past winter, they returned to New York for a week, securing a rental home that they hope will suit a more permanent lifestyle.
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"We're going to be really comfortable there this year, for sure," Gray said. "It was definitely a new experience for me and my family, but looking back, we enjoyed all of it. It's nice to have a full spring to get to know the guys a little bit better and understand how things work."
Making 11 starts down the stretch, Gray posted a 3.72 ERA while holding opponents to a .222 average, but a lack of run support left him with only four victories -- and seven losses -- to show for his efforts. Gray said that he thought he threw the ball well, with the exception of two September clunkers against the Orioles and Rays.
"We've seen him pitch at times in his career like a top-of-the-rotation guy," manager Aaron Boone said. "I think he's in a really good spot. I've been at the games when he's been at his best in his career, in the postseason going up against other elite starters. We know it's there and we think he's in a great spot to have a good season for us."
Gray started Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Indians, taking the loss after allowing three runs in 3 1/3 innings. His next outing came 12 days later in Game 4 of the AL Championship Series, when Gray limited the Astros to two runs (one earned) and one hit over five-plus innings.
That was the game, a 6-4 Yankees win, in which former manager Joe Girardi opted to start Austin Romine behind the plate instead of Gary Sanchez. Girardi reasoned that Gray liked to bounce pitches in the dirt and Sanchez was struggling to block them.
"Either way, I was going to go out and try to put as many zeros up on the board and try to keep us in the game as long as possible," Gray said. "No matter who is on the field, you come up with a game plan and you try to execute it. At that point, it was just getting with [pitching coach] Larry [Rothschild] and Romine and coming up with a plan, and try to execute it.
"I had thrown to Romine earlier in the season, I had thrown to Gary. So to me, at least, it wasn't like, 'Holy cow.' As a pitcher in the big leagues, you're used to throwing to a bunch of different catchers. I liked working with Romine, I liked working with Gary. Just that particular game, it was me and Romine working together."
Sanchez caught Gray's debut on Monday without incident, a pair of scoreless innings against the Phillies, though Gray's arsenal was admittedly more vanilla than it will be during the regular season.
"I felt very good," Sanchez said through an interpreter. "We've worked in the bullpen a couple of times and this Spring Training I also caught him in BP. The plan was to attack hitters and he did that."
It was the first of what the Yankees expect will be many sharp outings this season.
"We've got a great group," Gray said. "A lot of experience, a lot of people that have had success in the big leagues. I think everyone feels confident in each other. It's a good group to be a part of."