NEW YORK (AP) Sonny Gray had something important to tell his 2+-year-old son.
”Gunnar, I am not going to be playing for the A’s anymore,” the pitcher recalled. ”I am going to be playing for the Yankees.”
”He just says, `Why dad? Why?”’
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By Tuesday, Gunnar Gray was wearing a fresh New York Yankees cap. His dad was in uniform, throwing a bullpen in the Bronx one day after he was acquired from the Oakland Athletics for three prospects.
Jaime Garcia also reported to the Yankees, two days after he was obtained from the Minnesota Twins. Gray is to make his Yankees debut on Thursday at Cleveland, followed by Garcia the next night. Rookie left-hander Jordan Montgomery starts Saturday and Luis Severino takes the mound for the series finale.
New York dropped out of the AL East lead with a 4-3 loss to Detroit, dropping a half-game behind Boston. Manager Joe Girardi is using a six-man rotation this week because Severino threw a career-high 116 pitches Monday night against Detroit. Girardi plans to go back to five starters, and Montgomery is the pitcher likely to be dropped.
”You have six relievers and six starters, and you get rid of one of your relievers that can give you distance, it puts you in a bind,” Girardi said. ”If the commissioner would let me add another man on the roster and have 26, I would really think about it. But I called, and he said no.”
Making an unexpected playoff push in the first full season of a youth movement, the Yankees have turned over more than 20 percent of their roster in two weeks. They added third baseman Todd Frazier and relief pitchers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle in a July 18 trade with the Chicago White Sox.
Gray was an All-Star in 2015, when he won 14 games for the second consecutive season and finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting. The 27-year-old right-hander has been slowed by injuries, a strained upper back and forearm that limited him to 22 starts last year, and a strained lat muscle that delayed his first start this season to May 2. He is 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 16 starts this season, including 4-2 with a 1.37 ERA in his last six outings.
”I kind of missed the second half of last year, and coming back, I missed most of spring training, so I just wasn’t able to get the repetitions that a starting pitcher needs,” he said. ”I really feel like in the last month, the last two months, it’s starting to click and I’m starting to – and you’ll see – I’ve started to feel the baseball again and make it do the things that I’ve always been able to make it do, make it move a little bit, more one way or the other, and that’s something that I’ve always been able to do on the mound.”
Gray makes $3,575,000 and is not eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season. He replaces Michael Pineda, who had Tommy John surgery on July 18 and will be eligible for free agency after the World Series.
Gray’s given name is Sonny Douglas Gray.
“My grandfather’s nickname was Sonny and my dad always had it in his mind that if he had a son, he was going to name him Sonny, so 27 years later here I am with the name, Sonny,” he said. “It was a weird name growing up because I guess it’s uncommon or whatever, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
At Vanderbilt, where he pitched from 2009-11, he was nicknamed ”Hace Sol.”
”All of the baseball guys were in a Spanish class together and we were learning new terms and I guess, I think that means, `it is sunny,’ so they just started calling me that and it kind of stuck,” he said. ”But after college, no one has called me that lately.”
A 31-year-old left-hander, Garcia went 4-7 with a 4.30 ERA in 18 starts for Atlanta this season. He was dealt to Minnesota last Monday and won his only start for the Twins, giving up three runs and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings at Oakland on Friday.
Gray got up at 4 a.m. for a flight from California to New York. Three hours after landing, he threw a bullpen and said he always dreamed about pitching in pinstripes.
Garcia arrived after a longer odyssey. He departed Atlanta on July 19 for the start of a trip in Los Angeles and was in Phoenix with the Braves when he was traded to Minnesota on July 24. He won his Twins debut in Oakland, and the following night took a redeye flight to Atlanta to get some of his belongings from his house near SunTrust Park, already knowing a trade to the Yankees was falling into place.
”First reaction was that it was a little shocking,” he said. ”There are some emotions in there because the Yankees have always been my family’s favorite team and my favorite team growing up.”
Garcia has a $12 million salary, most of it paid by Atlanta. At the time he was dealt to Minnesota, the Braves agreed to send the Twins $100,000 on Aug. 15. Minnesota is sending New York $4,009,617 split into in four equal, biweekly installments starting Aug. 15.
Garcia said the first person he called after the latest trade was his mother.
“My grandfather was always a huge Yankees fan and he told me when I was a kid that he would see me playing for the Yankees one day,” he said. “So my mom, she was very emotional about it because of that story. My grandfather passed away when I was 13 years old, so the family was touched by that, obviously they’re all Yankees fans so they are very excited, excited for me.”
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