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A’s look to New York for Sonny Gray return

The return of Oakland A’s All Star-hopeful pitcher Sonny Gray will be pushed back at least one more game.

Gray, who is 9-3 with 97 strikeouts in 107-2/3 innings with the American League’s second-lowest ERA at 2.09, was scratched from his last start with gastroenteritis caused by salmonella.

With Gray’s spot in the rotation due in the finale of the Seattle Mariners series, manager Bob Melvin announced Saturday it will be righty Chris Bassitt who takes the hill Sunday afternoon.

Though Gray has shown improvement since being hospitalized for two days, Melvin believes he is not yet ready to make the start. And, Melvin is confident in his decision after Bassitt’s gutty start against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday:

“(He had) no walks. That’s something we asked him to go down (to Triple-A) and work on, because he has really good stuff. He doesn’t put anybody on base via the walk and he’s tough to hit.”

In his five innings of work against the Rockies, Bassitt allowed just one run (earned) on five hits and three strikeouts while firing 84 pitches (58 strikes).

Melvin was also quick to compliment the 26-year-old hurler for his readiness:

“He had a tough travel day… but he came in here ready to pitch and I don’t know if, on three days rest, we could have asked anything more from him.”

Among other options is veteran Barry Zito, who is 5-7 with a 3.67 ERA with the Triple-A Nashville Sound.

Zito, who has allowed six runs in 14 innings over his last three starts, has caught the attention of the big league skipper, but last pitched on Friday. Melvin acknowledged Zito as an option for the future, though he said that, with the success of the rotation, the help may be needed in the bullpen.

Another option Melvin brought up was Drew Pomeranz, who has been a starter throughout much of his five-year professional career.

But with his emergence this season as a valuable assist in the back end of the bullpen that has seen its struggles, Melvin is in no rush to move Pomeranz from a spot in which he has added so much solidarity:

“(Pomeranz has) been the key to the success we’ve had out of the ‘pen. (Edward) Mujica has been really good for us too towards the back end. You want a lefty, and a righty… We need guys like that in the bullpen.”

As for Gray’s near future, Melvin said he is not concerned at all about his return to health, even joking about his breakfast before adding:

“He’s throwing a bullpen session (July 4) and if everything goes well there, we’ll look at Tuesday for him.”

Tuesday or not, it seems most likely Gray will make his return during this week’s series in New York. In two career starts against the Yankees, Oakland’s ace has gone 1-1 while allowing five earned runs and striking out 12 in 11 innings.

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