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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Sonny Gray doesn’t have it, which is why Yanks kept a pitcher over Ronald Torreyes

Torreyes’ demotion was a clubhouse shocker, but Yankees couldn’t afford not having an extra reliever.

Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray walks off the field

Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray walks off the field after the top of the third inning of a game against the Angels on Saturday at Yankee Stadium. Credit: AP / Julio Cortez

Say it ain’t Toe! But don’t blame Greg Bird or Tyler Austin or even Brian Cashman for Ronald Torreyes not being on the Yankees today.

Blame Sonny Gray. And CC Sabathia. And Masahiro Tanaka. And any other Yankees starting pitcher who is not Luis Severino.

Torreyes was sent to Triple-A on Saturday to make room for Bird, who was activated from the disabled list for the umpteenth time in his brief career.

The stubbing of Toe was a shock to Yankees fans and Torreyes’ teammates, all of whom unabashedly love the pint-sized utilityman. That Torreyes hit .339 in limited action was less of a sticking point in the clubhouse than how much the 25-year-old is part of the fabric of this Yankees team.

“This news is a big deal in our room,” manager Aaron Boone said, “because of who Toe is and what he means to those guys.”

But Cashman showed little sentimentality in sending Torreyes to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Cashman explained that he values a seldom-used 13th pitcher more than a seldom-used backup infielder because the Yankees’ starting pitchers don’t throw enough innings.

“I feel some of the starters we have, we’re not getting necessary — or should expect to get — the length that you’d like to get,” he said. “It’s best to protect the staff with 13 pitchers even though I’d prefer to be at 12.”

A few hours after Cashman spoke, Gray went out and did his best to make the general manager look like a soothsayer (but not in a good way). Gray lasted 3 2/3 innings and gave up five runs, wiping out an early 4-1 Yankees lead in their 11-4 loss to the Angels at Yankee Stadium.

Gray was Cashman’s signature starting pitching acquisition last summer, and he performed as well with the Yankees as he had for the A’s in 2017 in every key statistical category other than won-loss record.

Gray had an ERA-plus of 123 with the A’s and 122 for the Yankees. ERA-plus is an advanced stat that adjusts a pitcher’s ERA according to ballparks and the ERA of the pitcher’s league. An average ERA-plus is 100. So Gray was better than average.

Still, Gray doesn’t feel like a very good or confident pitcher when you watch him, does he? He looks like a guy who will follow up an eight-inning, one-run performance at Kansas City in his last outing with the kind of stinker he threw on Saturday in the Bronx.

The Yankees had given Gray a 4-1 lead by the second inning. With the Angels leading 1-0, Brett Gardner homered leading off the bottom of the first and Aaron Judge followed with a 442-blast to right-center. Austin Romine banged a two-run shot off the rightfield foul pole in the second and Gray had a three-run lead.

What did he do with it? Gray gave up a single, double and walk to the first three hitters of the third to load the bases. After a strikeout of Albert Pujols, Gray walked Shohei Ohtani to force in a run. A sacrifice fly by Andrelton Simmons made it 4-3.

In the fourth, Gray walked Kole Calhoun (.160 average) to start the inning. Two batters later, Mike Trout (career best five hits) gave the Angels a 5-4 lead with a home run to left. Gray hit Justin Upton with a pitch, and that’s when Boone called for a reliever.

Gray is averaging less than five innings per start, as are Domingo German and the injured Jordan Montgomery. Sabathia is just over five. Tanaka is just under six. Severino is the best of the bunch, averaging 6 1/3 innings per start.

All of that means a lot of innings for the bullpen, so Cashman has gone with eight relievers for most of the season. He has kept rigthhander A.J. Cole on the roster since April 24 for a total of five appearances, including two perfect innings of mop-up duty on Saturday.

Unless there’s an injury, Torreyes has to stay down on the farm for 10 days. Anyone in the clubhouse who has a problem with that should cast an annoyed glance over to Sonny Gray’s locker. And a few others.

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