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Sonny Gray out for Opening Day with lat strain

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Sonny Gray’s comeback season is off to an ominous start. The Oakland A’s star pitcher has a strained lat and will be shut down for three weeks and miss Opening Day, via Jane Lee and Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle, who also notes that Sonny isn’t likely to return to the mound until late April. Read Slusser’s full writeup here.

Sonny made two starts in the Cactus League this spring, and they were like night and day. He threw two scoreless innings against the Padres on March 1, recording four strikeouts and allowing only one hit. But then on Tuesday, he put up the following disastrous line: 2 ip, 7 ER, 3 Ks, 4 BB, 5 hits, 1 HR. The game turned into a 21-13 slugfest, so it was fair to hope that maybe the ball just happened to be jumping that day, but, well:

This is an especially tough blow for Sonny, because the 27-year-old was aiming for a bounce-back after a lost 2016 season. After finishing third in Cy Young voting the previous year, the right-hander was limited to only 22 starts and looked nothing like his old self when he did pitch — high ERA, lots of hits, no reliable breaking ball, no ability to get the big out when needed, and, weirdest of all, a bunch of homers from a guy who is usually among the best at limiting them. He hit the DL twice, for a trap and a forearm. His final stats:

Sonny, 2016: 22 starts, 5.69 ERA, 117 ip, 94 Ks, 42 BB, 18 HR, 4.67 FIP, 0.1 WAR

WAR is average between 0.7 fWAR and -0.5 bWAR

If there’s any good news to be had here, it’s that the A’s were prepared for this possibility. They had put together far more rotation options than they initially needed and then resisted the urge to trade any away during the offseason, so even having lost Daniel Mengden and Sonny already they’re still set for now.

Slusser suggests Kendall Graveman as her guess for Opening Day starter, and also noted that Jesse Hahn and Andrew Triggs, who had been competing for the No. 5 spot, are both likely to make the rotation now. Beyond them, the A’s still have Raul Alcantara, or they could choose to stick with Ross Detwiler if they want to go the Surkamp route like last April (but have to decide soon on him!).

Get well soon, Sonny! Athletics Nation is pulling for you!