PHOENIX -- Manager Bob Melvin says second-year right-hander Sonny Gray will start Saturday's Cactus League game against the Texas Rangers.
With probable opening-day starter Jarrod Parker throwing Friday against the Giants, also at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, that suggests that Gray, who has only half a season's worth of big league experience, will start the second game of the season against Cleveland on April 1 in Oakland.
Gray has been the No. 2 man before. In the playoffs last year, he pitched in the second game of the American League Division Series against the Tigers, and his eight shutout innings helped give the A's their first win of the series.
It could happen like that again come April, but there are no guarantees.
"It would be wrong to read too much into that," Melvin said. "There's a whole spring left. There are plenty of ways we could readjust the rotation between now and then."
All things being equal, A.J. Griffin probably would have gotten Saturday's start, and the subject of Gray's positioning in the rotation come April wouldn't have come up before the first Cactus League game had even been played.
But Griffin is being held back until he's faced hitters in live batting practice twice, so he likely won't make a Cactus League start until the second time through the rotation. In Griffin's place, Gray is getting the start against Texas, a team he did not face in 10 starts after being promoted from Triple-A Sacramento.
Once he's up and in the mix, Griffin could very well wind up as the No. 2 man behind Parker, based on Griffin's team-best 200 innings pitched and 14 wins a year ago.
If it happened that Gray was to be the No. 2 man, however, Melvin wouldn't have a problem with either his youth (24) or inexperience (12 major league games, 10 of them starts).
"If that's the way it happens, I think he'd do a good job there," Melvin said. "The only thing he hasn't done has been here a full year. Based on where he was at the end of last season, it felt like he'd been here for the whole season."
Gray turned in one of the most impressive A's pitching performances of the season in Game 2 of the playoffs. Pitching at the Coliseum, he limited the Tigers to four hits and no runs. He took the loss in Game 5, giving up three runs in five innings, but generally stepped up as if he had the maturity of a six-year veteran.
"The stuff he has and the way he pitched at the end of the season marks him as someone who could pitch anywhere in the rotation," pitching coach Curt Young said. "He's a top of the rotation guy."
"Last year was all about getting him some experience, then getting him confident," Melvin said. "He hit the ground running once he got here. He's looking forward to getting a full season in and doing the best he can to help his team win."
Scott Kazmir is likely to get Sunday's start, and that indicates that he'd be the team's No. 3 starter. If so, his first start with the Athletics would be against Cleveland, the team for which he pitched last year.