If enthusiasm counts for anything, then the newest New York Yankee, Sonny Gray, figures to be just fine. Gray’s attitude about coming to the Bronx Bombers has ranged from excitement to ecstasy. There is no place he would rather be than in Cleveland pitching for the New York Yankees on Thursday.
“It will be something I’ve looked forward to ever since the trade rumors of potentially coming here,” Gray said upon his arrival in the Bronx. “It is something that, when you hear it, you can’t help but hope it actually happens. Now, it is. Now, I’m here.”
Gray is looked upon as the final piece in this year's pinstriped puzzle. With a deep lineup and perhaps baseball’s best bullpen, the Yankees needed starting pitching. General manager Brian Cashman addressed that on deadline day by bringing in the 27-year-old right-hander and lefty Jaime Garcia.
Gray is 6-5 with a 3.43 ERA overall, but 3-1 with a 1.48 ERA in his past four starts. One of those outings was against the Cleveland Indians, when he went six scoreless innings in Oakland's shutout of Cleveland a little more than two weeks ago.
He could be peaking at just the right time, but past history is against him. The Yankees’ schedule is weighted with AL East opponents the rest of the way, and Gray has been noticeably worse against that division. In 23 starts, Gray’s ERA is 3.99 versus the East (excluding the Yankees), and 3.21 against everyone else. AL East hitters own a .722 OPS against him, while everyone else is at .626.
Gray has struggled the most against the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles, against whom he has a combined plus-five ERA in eight starts. There is some concern that a tougher division and a worse park for pitchers -- Yankee Stadium vs. Oakland Coliseum -- could cause him to struggle.
Gray feasted on the AL West, which, during his career, has been weaker than the East. In 46 games, his ERA is 2.91 against the West. (For comparison, he's at 3.80 versus the AL Central in 25 starts.)
While the Yankees ideally want Gray to be a No. 2 starter, the bar for the regular season is to at least replace the injured Michael Pineda's inconsistent production. The Yankees were unable to do that with rookies such as Caleb Smith, which is why they gave up prospects Jorge Mateo, Dustin Fowler and James Kaprielian for Gray.
"Every kid wants to play for the Yankees. It is not something that I'm going to take for granted. I'm very excited to be here and get to work. Thursday, for me, can't come soon enough." Sonny Gray
After the trade, Yankees manager Joe Girardi made it abundantly clear to Gray that the club doesn't want him to change his approach.
“We just wanted Sonny to be Sonny,” Girardi said.
Sonny has always been Sonny -- literally since birth, as it's not a nickname, but a given name.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” said Gray, who is named after his grandfather.
Gray seemed confident when he showed up late Tuesday for his opening news conference. He sounded like a kid waking up on Christmas morning. It also didn’t sound like he'd miss the Bay Area all that much.
For him, going from the struggling A’s to the contending Yankees was an easy transition, one he was eager to make from the first time he heard the deal was a possibility.
"Every kid wants to play for the Yankees," Gray said. "It is not something that I'm going to take for granted. I'm very excited to be here and get to work. Thursday, for me, can't come soon enough."
Gray might not be successful in pinstripes, but his attitude is spot on. He wanted to be a Yankee. Now his job is to help them get to a World Series.