Cincinnati Reds: Sonny Gray looks to be the Opening Day starter

GOODYEAR, AZ - FEBRUARY 19: Sonny Gray #54 of the Cincinnati Reds poses for a portrait at the Cincinnati Reds Player Development Complex on February 19, 2019 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)r caption here>> on February 19, 2019 in Goodyear, Arizona.
GOODYEAR, AZ - FEBRUARY 19: Sonny Gray #54 of the Cincinnati Reds poses for a portrait at the Cincinnati Reds Player Development Complex on February 19, 2019 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)r caption here>> on February 19, 2019 in Goodyear, Arizona. /
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After a minor setback this spring, the Opening Day starter for the Cincinnati Reds would appear to be Sonny Gray’s job to lose.

Some folks had their doubts, especially after he dealt with a minor injury early in camp, but Sonny Gray looks the part of the Cincinnati Reds‘ Opening Day starter. Gray mowed down nine straight batters in three innings pitched on Thursday and hasn’t allowed a single earned run yet this spring.

Sonny Gray was scratched from his first start this spring with right elbow stiffness. The right-hander, who was acquired from the New York Yankees in January and signed a three-year extension, was held out of the team’s Cactus League opener as a precaution and he began throwing a few days later.

Since his return to the lineup, Gray has been lights out. In his first game, Gray went two innings, struck out three and didn’t allow a run. Yesterday was more of the same with Gray shutting down the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lineup in order including one strikeout.

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A lot has been made about the Reds’ acquisition of Gray this offseason. Some fans loved the move and thought the extension gave the team a potential No. 1 starter to build around for years to come. Others were a bit more pessimistic, siting his horrible year last season that saw him get rocked on a consistent basis in Yankee Stadium.

While last year’s performance certainly gives cause to pause, his two starts this spring should give Cincinnati Reds fans reasons to jump for joy. The Reds have been void of a true No. 1 starter since Johnny Cueto was shipped to Kansas City.

Make no mistake, Gray is not yet in that stratosphere, but so far this spring he’s given the Reds exactly what they need. Relying on young, inexperienced the way the team did last season is not the way to build a successful rotation.

The Cincinnati Reds brought in veterans Tanner Roark and Alex Wood this season to help balance the starting rotation. Wood is currently on the shelf and may start the season on the injured list. If this happens, Tyler Mahle would most likely take Wood’s spot in the rotation.

Aiding the Cincinnati Reds early in the season is the team’s three off-days in the first sixteen days of the 2019 season. If Wood’s injury is not too restrictive, the left-hander might only miss one start depending on the severity of his injury.

Luis Castillo‘s spring has begun to the tune of a 17.36 ERA in three games and while he dominated down the stretch in 2018, it’s highly unlikely he’ll get the ball on March 28th against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Anthony DeSclafani has been very good this spring. His 2.00 ERA in 9 innings pitched and 7 strikeouts suggest the right-hander is back on track after injuries robbed him of almost two full seasons. Tanner Roark has appeared to be a calming presence on the mound thus far, but his inconsistent spring could put him in line as the No. 3 starter this coming season.

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Sonny Gray has looked the part. He’s been in command of his fastball and kept his breaking pitch down in the zone. He’ll likely get another start or two before Spring Training ends, but to this point, Gray is the clear favorite to get the ball on Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds.