On Wednesday night at Target Field, the Oakland Athletics posted an 18-3 win over the Minnesota Twins. The beat down overshadowed what was quietly yet another solid outing for rookie Sonny Gray. The right-hander let in two runs as he turned in five innings of work, while improving to 3-3 with a 2.63 ERA.
The 23-year-old starter has now made seven starts for Oakland, and pitched in two other games in relief. On the season, Gray has tossed 48 innings for the Athletics and 118.1 in Triple-A, as he went 10-7 with a 3.42 ERA over 20 starts for the Sacramento River Cats. Combined, that equals 166.1 innings pitched for the highly touted pitcher.
With the Miami Marlins recently cutting short the season of Jose Fernandez, the question is: will Oakland do the same?
It’s worth considering how the Athletics handled another young right-hander, who spent the majority of the season in the minors before earning a call-up to the big league squad. Dan Straily threw 191.1 inning last season between Oakland’s rotation and stops in Double and Triple-A. Straily, who the team grabbed in the 24th round of the 2009 MLB draft, worked 160.2 innings in 2011. So, the Athletics increased his work load by just under 30 innings.
It’s hard to know if the Athletics will handle Gray, who was the 11th overall pick in 2011, the same way they utilized Straily. Last season, Gray worked 152 innings, so, he’s already flown past that total. The former standout at Vanderbilt figures to come in somewhere under the 190.1 innings that Straily went, and he’s in line to make three more starts during the rest of the regular season.
If he goes six innings in each of his next three starts, Gray would be entering the playoffs on 184.1 innings pitched. If the team makes the postseason, he’ll approach, if not surpass, 200 innings pitched on the season. For now, though, the team has yet to lock down a playoff spot, so there’s no sense in jumping too far ahead. Either way, 2013 is lining up to be the longest and most demanding season yet for the diminutive starter.
Hopefully that workload won’t put a damper on his long term development.