Jeff Gray had 15 saves last season.
The 2007 season was a heady year for reliever Jeff Gray. After moving slowly through the Oakland A’s system during his first three years as a pro, Gray breezed through Double-A and saved 12 games at Triple-A. After helping Sacramento win the PCL title, Gray was invited to the AFL and later added to the 40-man roster. We spoke to Gray, who is participating in his first major league camp.
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OaklandClubhouse: How has major league camp been thus far? Is this experience a lot different than your previous Spring Training camps?
Jeff Gray: Yeah. It’s a lot more laid-back and a lot more fun. Some of it is because everyone is new. There are so many new faces and so many new people that everybody is just like ‘let’s have a good time and get what we need to do done and go from there.’ It has been a lot of fun and you see faces that you got to play with during the [Arizona] Fall League and see faces you haven’t seen in awhile. It’s been a good time.
OC: Did the feel of camp change at all today with the full-squad workouts as opposed to it just being pitchers and catchers?
|Jeff Gray had a 3.34 ERA in 67.1 innings in 2007.
JG: Oh, yeah. We had a couple of media there [at camp] the past couple of days, but today, I mean it was fans and media. Getting the whole team together, it’s crazy. There’s a lot of people moving around and a lot of [drill] stations and stuff like that. But it’s been a lot of fun.
OC: Is there anything in particular that you are focusing on while you are getting ready to play in Spring Training games?
JG: To be honest with you, my off-season was very short this year. I had really only about a good, solid two months of getting ready. The one thing that I have really been trying to focus on here is just my command. Trying to get things in-line, geared up and ready to go. Of course, there are going to be good days and bad days right now, because it is February, but I need to get my command back in order and make my adjustments to get it right.
OC: Is there anything that you are carrying over from the Arizona Fall League?
JG: Pretty much my slider. [laughs] Just the experience and the tempo of the game. I’m excited to see how much faster the game is [at the major league level]. There are big league names now that you are playing with, which is really exciting. That day that you never thought would come where you would get a chance to play alongside those guys, it’s now here and you are with them. That brings a little bit of a different aspect to getting ready for the season. I’m really excited about that.
OC: Have you been working a lot with Ron Romanick, now that he is the A’s bullpen coach?
JG: Actually, this off-season, I kind of made sure that I got some one-on-one experience with him. He’s helped me out with a couple of adjustments. Not big things, more just tempo in my motion, kind of slowing me down a little bit. But, yeah, I worked with him a lot. Now in camp, he has so many pitchers he is working with that there is only so many that he can take a close look at. But this off-season, being down here in Arizona and having a chance to actually work with him in a smaller group has been really helpful going into this Spring Training.
OC: Who’s been in your throwing group, generally speaking? Or does that change every day?
|Gray was converted from a starter to a reliever last season with Kane County.
JG: It pretty much changes every day. We have been working in groups where we have split the guys in half, split the guys in fourths. It’s changed pretty much every day. I’ve had [Joe] Blanton in one group, Huston Street in most of my groups. Pretty much all of the big leaguers. They have been mixing us up. It hasn’t really been a case where all of the vets have been together or the young guys all in another group.
OC: You mentioned seeing guys from the Arizona Fall League. The A’s acquired a couple of guys that you played against during the AFL season. Did you have a chance to get to know guys like Greg Smith and Aaron Cunningham when you were playing against them?
JG: I got a good chance to meet Greg when I went with him to the Rookie Career Development Program. He helped represent the A’s. I ended up getting to meet him and got to know him there. I got to see him in the AFL. I got to see him pitch and see what he’s got. He’s a great competitor and a great guy. Aaron Cunningham, he was down here early, working out during the off-season. I got to know him and work out with him and play a little golf with him. He’s just an awesome guy, too. Those are two great acquisitions we made. Two great guys and two great competitors.
OC: How was that Rookie Career Development Program?
JG: It was really nice. It was interesting. I kind of thought it was like a business convention. [laughs] They gave us a lot of knowledge and good information to help prepare us for this coming season and what to kind of expect. It was exciting to see a lot of the guys who were there were from the Fall League.
OC: What kind of topics did they cover at the program?
JG: They tried to hit a little bit of everything. How to deal with on-camera interviews, financial stuff. They tried to talk a little bit about the new drug policy, stuff like that. Just little odds and ends, what to expect going into the new year and what to get ready for, all the media and the high intensity stuff that comes with being a major league baseball player.
OC: Did you find that to be very helpful?
JG: Actually, yeah. There were a lot of key things that I thought could help me along the way. They can only tell you so much. You kind of have to put it into your own style, but I think a lot of the information was good.
OC: What did it mean to you when you got the call that you had made the 40-man roster this year?
JG: It was right before my birthday, so it was a good birthday present. It was really nice. It made me kind of realize, hey, I might actually have a really good shot at doing this. It felt really nice to be acquired into the 40-man roster, especially with all of the names that we have on our 40-man roster. We have talent everywhere. Being associated with some of those names feels really good.
OC: What kind of expectations do you have going into this season?
JG: I feel like I really don’t have a lot to lose, you know. I am going to go out there in camp and try to make the major league squad and if that doesn’t happen, I’m going to go down to Triple-A, hopefully, and that is not a bad thing either. I’m just going to play hard and give it everything that I’ve got and hopefully help the teams win ballgames. Hopefully I can help the big league squad at any time, if I don’t make it out of camp, and go from there.
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