Red Sox manager John Farrell has not seen A’s starter Sonny Gray pitch in person.
A few hours from now, he won’t be able to say that. Gray starts for the first time Sunday afternoon (10:30 a.m. in the Bay Area) in Fenway Park. Even without having seen Gray, Farrell talks like he knows the second-year Oakland starter is the real deal.
“He’s a guy that’s got very good stuff,’’ Farrell said Sunday morning. “He’s going to be in the low- to mid-90s (mph) and with a very good curveball. And from what we’ve come to understand, he’s a very confident young pitcher that’s gotten to the big leagues quick.
“He pitched in a very advanced program at Vanderbilt and he doesn’t back away from or fear the Major League challenge. That’s evident by the numbers that he’s put up this year.’’
Gray comes into today’s start with a 4-1 record and 1.76 ERA that is the second-best mark in the American League.
He’s never pitched against the Red Sox, much less in Fenway Park, but he seems not a bit in awe of the century-old baseball icon or of the Red Sox, the defending World Series champions.
“I like pitching when it’s my turn. It doesn’t matter where the park is,’’ Gray said earlier in the weekend. “I’m sure it will be a cool experience. But when I’m on the mound, I won’t be thinking about that.’’
And what will he be thinking about?
“Honestly, I don’t think that much out there,’’ he said. “I look at the situation and what we’ve talked about in the pregame meeting and what we want to do.’’
A’s manager Bob Melvin, himself a former catcher, said that the Red Sox, or anyone facing Gray, should be prepared for someone whose pitches move every which way.
“Sometimes he doesn’t even know what his fastball is going to do,’’ Melvin said. “I use the word hydroplane to describe it. Sometimes it cuts, sometimes it sinks, sometimes it doesn’t know what it wants to do. A catcher has to be on when he’s catching him. There’s a lot of late movement.’’
Melvin is particularly in awe of the way Gray has played around with his repertoire in his first 16 big league starts.
“Now he’s throwing a few more changeups and this hybrid slider thing he’s come up with,’’ Melvin said. “I don’t know what it is. I think he holds it like a changeup and it ends up working like a slider at slider speeds. He’s always tinkering. He used it very effectively in his last game, and I didn’t even know he had it.’’