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Sonny Gray makes Yankees debut in Cleveland, a place he’s struggled in last two starts

Sonny Gray said he's thrown an extra bullpen

Sonny Gray said he's thrown an extra bullpen session since he hasn't pitched since July 25 in Toronto. Credit: AP / Kathy Willens

The Cleveland Indians have fared well against Sonny Gray in their home ballpark, and that’s where the 27-year-old righthander will make his Yankees debut Thursday night.

In his past two outings at Progressive Field, Gray has allowed 17 hits and 14 earned runs in eight innings.

“I don’t know a reason [behind the struggles],” Gray, whom the Yankees acquired from Oakland at the trade deadline for three prospects, said before Wednesday’s series finale with Detroit. “If I knew a reason then I would have tried to answer it. I don’t think about that type of stuff.”

One possible reason is the timing of the starts. The first one came on July 31, 2016, just one outing before the A’s shut him down with a forearm injury. When he started at Cleveland on May 30 this season, Gray was only a few weeks removed from a lat strain that forced him to miss most of spring training and all of April.

He said he only recently has begun to feel like himself on the mound, and it has showed. In his last six starts with Oakland, Gray went 4-2 with a 1.37 ERA and .164 batting average against.

“The main thing for me is I kind of missed the second half of last year and coming back I missed most of spring training so I wasn’t able to get the repetitions that a starting pitcher needs,” Gray said. “I really feel like in the last month, the last two months, it’s starting to click.”

How exactly? Gray said he was having trouble coaxing proper movement out of his pitches until recently.

“That’s something that I’ve always been able to do on the mound,” he said, “and I’ve really been able to do that lately in the last couple of months just with the repetition and whatnot. The baseball feels good in my hand again.”

During his recent stretch, Gray faced Cleveland in Oakland on July 14. He allowed just two hits and a walk and struck out five in six innings of an A’s victory.

So he and the Indians have seen each other twice this season going into Thursday night’s game.

“I think both sides can make adjustments and understand what they’ve done well against a guy, what they haven’t done well against a guy and vice versa,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s not going to be a surprise, the stuff he has, when Cleveland sees him.”

For Gray, there has been an additional challenge. He was originally slated to start for Oakland on Sunday, but the A’s pushed his start back because of the trade deadline, which occurred Monday afternoon. He last started on July 25 in Toronto.

Gray said he threw an extra bullpen session to prepare himself.

“I’m just looking forward to getting back on the mound,” he said. “It’s been a while. It’ll be fun to just pitch.”

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