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Gray scratched with elbow stiffness

Righty not 'overly worried'; Roark to make Reds debut Saturday
@m_sheldon
February 22, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Pitcher Sonny Gray's spring debut with the Reds was delayed Friday when he was scratched from Saturday’s Cactus League opener against the Indians because of right elbow stiffness. The injury was not considered serious by Gray or the club, but the decision was made to be cautious.

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Pitcher Sonny Gray's spring debut with the Reds was delayed Friday when he was scratched from Saturday’s Cactus League opener against the Indians because of right elbow stiffness.

The injury was not considered serious by Gray or the club, but the decision was made to be cautious.

"It's nothing I'm overly worried about,” Gray said. “I think I’ll start throwing in the next couple of days. It's just something that there's no reason to push it right now."

Tanner Roark will start in Gray’s place and make his debut in a Reds uniform. He was slated to pitch after Gray and is simply being moved up. Roark will work one inning.

Gray said he felt something in his elbow following a bullpen session earlier this week.

“The next morning I came in and was just a little sore, stiff more than normal,” Gray said. “We decided to take a few days.”

Reds manager David Bell was not worried that Gray was seriously hurt when he heard about the elbow stiffness. After the prognosis, he was not concerned either.

“Of course, we obviously care about him because he’s going to be a huge part of our team,” Bell said. “The way it was talked about was that it was -- even from the very beginning -- it was not alarming. We needed to be aware of it and it made complete sense to push him back a couple of days.”

Gray, 29, was acquired from the Yankees in a Jan. 21 trade and immediately signed a three-year, $30.5 contract million extension through 2022, with a $12 million club option for '23. The right-handed pitcher is seeking to rebound from 2018, when he went 11-9 with a 4.90 ERA in 30 games for New York.

Along with new acquisitions like Roark and Alex Wood, Gray is viewed as an important part of Cincinnati’s efforts to turn things around following five losing seasons.

“In a way, you almost expect these things to happen with guys, especially guys who have played this game for a long time,” Bell said. “It seems like early in Spring Training, as much as you prepare, there’s so much new to your schedule. You’re stressing your body in different ways. It’s part of the reason that we’re really careful early on to ease guys into it.

“It’s just different. A lot of times it turns out to not be a big deal. These guys are very aware of their bodies, which is great because he caught it early. We’re hoping it’s just a minor setback. And the progress he’s made leads us to believe that it will be.”

Before he signed his contract extension, Gray was given a full physical and passed. Upon the news about his elbow, president of baseball operations Dick Williams said the club elected not to have Gray undergo an MRI exam based on the medical staff’s opinion.

"It's something I’ve dealt with in the past,” Gray said of the elbow stiffness issue.

Reds camp has been upbeat since pitchers and catchers reported on Feb. 12, and there have been no setbacks until now. Even if it’s a minor issue, Gray was still disappointed that he could not pitch on Saturday.

"That was the thing. I wanted to get out there and throw,” Gray said. “It would have been awesome to start the first game of spring. It's something that I wanted to do. That was probably the hardest part. But when you sit down and think of it in the long-term and grand scheme of the season, it just didn't really make much sense to fight through something this early. So that was the thinking through it and that was the kind of decision we made."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.