OAKLAND -- If the choice of Sonny Gray to pitch Game 2 of the American League Division Series startled you, it didn't surprise the A's rookie right-hander in the slightest.
"No, it didn't," he said Tuesday after a team workout at the O.co Coliseum. "Did it surprise you?"
That Gray is starting a game against the Detroit Tigers is no surprise, but the fact that he is pitching Saturday at the Coliseum ahead of Jarrod Parker did come out of the blue. Bartolo Colon and Gray get the two games in Oakland; Parker and Dan Straily are scheduled to start Games 3 and 4 in Detroit on Monday and Tuesday.
The Tigers will counter with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in Oakland, then they will throw American League ERA champ Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister in Detroit.
The A's did some last-minute shuffling of their rotation because A.J. Griffin is battling tendinitis in his right arm, it was revealed Tuesday. He isn't on the A's roster and is resting for what he hopes will be a chance to start in the second round of the playoffs.
First the A's have to motor through the lads from the Motor City. Gray, who has 10 major league starts, has never faced the Tigers.
"I'm excited for the chance," he said.
And how about the guy he is facing? Verlander, who beat the A's twice in the ALDS last year, when the Tigers won in five games, is Gray's opponent.
"That'll be cool," Gray said. "He's a good pitcher, and that's a tough matchup."
Gray pitched the A.L. West clincher Sept. 22 in Oakland, and he has much better numbers at home (3-1, 1.99) than on the road (2-2, 3.86).
Manager Bob Melvin didn't cite that as a reason for going with Gray, however.
Melvin likes that Gray is 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA in his past six starts. He likes that Gray doesn't seem to be fazed by anything. And Gray has a great assortment of pitches, starting with his fastball.
Griffin came to the Coliseum on Tuesday believing he would be one of the A's four starters in the ALDS. But his bout with elbow tendinitis has cost him a spot in this round of the playoffs, despite winning four of his past five decisions.
"It was news to me that I wasn't pitching," Griffin said. "They called me in today and told me they were shutting me down. I was planning on pitching whenever they wanted me to pitch, but it's their decision and they've been making good decisions all year."
Colon gives the A's a veteran presence in the rotation that they didn't have last year against the Tigers. He was with the team for most of the 2012 season but was serving part of a 50-game suspension during the postseason for having used performance-enhancing drugs.
"It's really important for me," Colon said through interpreter Ariel Prieto when asked about pitching in this year's playoffs. "I feel so happy. I'll do the best I can for the team."
Colon came back from the suspension to win 18 games and finish second in the league with a 2.65 ERA.
"He gives us a veteran presence that we didn't have at this time a year ago," Melvin said. "Last year, these guys were all rookies. Now we've got a veteran going."
Parker had a rough April, including a game in which the Tigers beat him up for eight runs in 31/3 innings. But he is 10-2 dating to a victory over the Giants on May 28, and at one point he was unbeaten for 19 consecutive starts.
Straily has come on strong as well, going 4-1 with a 2.00 ERA in his final six starts.
"I came here today hoping," Straily said. "I was hoping, but I wasn't expecting."
Straily set the pace for the A's in Detroit in August, winning the first game of a four-game series that the A's dominated. They won three of four, losing the last game when they blew a three-run lead in the ninth.
"I'll be watching that film," Straily said, "and cleaning up some of the things I did."
Griffin will travel with the team to Detroit for Games 3 and 4, as will left-handed pitcher Tommy Milone and first baseman Nate Freiman. None is on the active roster.
The A's will "take what we can get," Melvin said, adding that he would like for Cespedes to be his left fielder Friday. But if the shoulder limits Cespedes to designated hitter, the A's will settle for that.
Melvin said he is reasonably certain that Cespedes will at least be the designated hitter, but a close eye will be kept on the outfielder's progress all week.
The A's will be facing nothing but right-handed starters against the Tigers, so there's a chance Vogt will start every game. But given that Norris was one of the A's big bats down the stretch -- he hit .340 from Aug. 17 -- it would be no surprise if he caught at least one game.
Another catcher, John Jaso, will head back to instructional league in Phoenix when the A's leave town. There is a chance he could join the team as a designated hitter/pinch hitter if the club advances.
A's rely on hard-throwing relievers to close out games. Page 4.