Hard-throwing right-hander Jeff Gray will become the 12th rookie to make his major league debut with the Oakland A's this season. Gray, a 32nd round pick of the A's in 2004, was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento on Friday. He will assist an Oakland bullpen stretched thin by two double-headers in three days.
The Southwest Missouri State alum was added to the A's 40-man roster during the off-season after a 2007 campaign when he had a 3.34 ERA and 15 saves in 67.1 innings for Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento. After winning a PCL title with Sacramento last season, Gray was part of the Arizona Fall League title-winning Phoenix Desert Dogs' squad in the fall of 2007.
Gray has spent the entire 2008 season with Triple-A Sacramento. It has been an up-and-down year for the right-hander. Overall, he has a 4.39 ERA in 67.2 innings for the River Cats, but he has been pitching better lately. In 15.2 innings during the month of August, Gray had a 2.30 ERA and three saves.
Originally a starter, Gray was converted into a reliever in 2006 with Low-A Kane County. He would finish that year with High-A Stockton. As a starter, Gray generally threw his fastball in the 88-91 range. However, when he moved into the bullpen, Gray saw his fastball velocity leap into the mid-90s.
Gray was as surprised as anyone about the increase in velocity.
"To be honest with you, I really haven’t figured out where it came from. As a starter, I was always upper-80s, maybe low-90s. Now I am throwing pretty hard and people always ask: ‘where did it come from?’" Gray told OaklandClubhouse.com last season.
"The only thing that I have figured out that may have helped me was that I did a couple of things with my mechanics. I was finally able to figure out where everything had to be at the right time to increase my velocity a bit. Also, as a starter, you kind of want to last a little longer, so I was concentrating more on throwing strikes [than throwing hard]. In the bullpen, you can just push a couple of extra [miles per hour] and I think that something to do with it. I also think that my arm kind of matured a little bit. It kind of got a little stronger and I lost a little weight. I wasn’t as big as I was the last couple of years coming out of college. I think it might be a combination of all of those things, to be honest with you."
During his five-year minor league career, Gray has played for all six of the A's North American minor league affiliates. In 175 minor league appearances, he has a 3.60 ERA.
For more information about Jeff Gray, you can view his Scout.com profile here.