On Jan. 5, Brandon Tierney became a father for the first time. A few weeks before that, so did Oakland ace Sonny Gray.
In just a few months, Tierney has learned the same thing Gray has: Being a new dad is not easy.
“It’s not easy at all,” Gray confirmed on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney, laughing. “I was telling some of the guys in the locker room. We have a bunch of new dads on this team. Last night, (my son) was just laying there (crying) for five hours straight. I was telling one guy that in the locker room, and (Eric) O’Flaherty on the other side starts cracking up and he’s like, ‘My guy does the exact same thing.’ It’s pretty fun, though, for sure.”
Fun. That’s a pretty good word to describe Oakland’s season last year.
Well, at least until August.
The A’s went from having the best record in baseball to losing 30 of their final 45 games. They barely made the playoffs and lost to Kansas City in an epic one-game Wild Card. Oakland has lost several key players since then, including Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Josh Donaldson.
Any concerns about depth entering 2015?
“I don’t think so at all,” Gray said. “If you look at the depth now, especially on the mound, we have so many quality guys that can (become) very good guys. You look at all the talent we brought in and you don’t really know anything about them, and then you come into camp and you start learning their personalities and then you get to watch them pitch. It’s amazing how talented and how good some of these guys are. I’m not worried about that one bit.”
Oakland will rely on Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Hahn, Jesse Chavez and Drew Pomeranz, among others, this season. Those are talented players.
Still, Tierney simply did not understand Billy Beane’s decision to trade Josh Donaldson to Toronto for Brett Lawrie and others. Donaldson, 29, had 29 home runs, 31 doubles, 98 RBIs and a .342 OBP last season.
How are the A’s going to replace him?
“I don’t really think you replace a guy like that,” Gray said. “I think you just kind of do what we did: We got a lot of very good guys back. Lawrie is going to play third. People love him in the clubhouse. He’s a great player, and then we got some really good arms as well. I don’t think you replace a guy like that, but you just try to go from that and take what you got and go with it. Donaldson, he was a special player us for the last two or the years. He’s for sure going to be missed, but we’ve got some very talented guys replacing him.”
That includes Lawrie, as well as Ben Zobrist and Billy Butler.
Gray, meanwhile, figures be a force on the mound once more. The 25-year-old went 14-10 with a 3.08 ERA last season and had 183 strikeouts in 219 innings. Even more impressive, he’s 5-11 – tops – and 180 pounds. You don’t see that too often from a righty.
“You don’t see that at all,” Gray said. “I’ve got that my whole life; 5-11 is pretty generous, you’re right about that. Being 5-11 and being 180 pounds, is kind of a no-go when it comes to right-handed pitchers. But I think growing up with that and having that chip my whole life has kind of just made me that much better. It makes me pitch with that much more fire.”
Gray was in the minors as recently as July 2013 and is now Oakland’s ace.
The key to his success? It’s simple: Don’t change who you are. Keep doing what you’re doing. Just go after guys, compete and see how everything plays out.
“I took that approach from day one and continued to just compete with guys,” Gray said. “Just make it a personal one-on-one battle with every hitter and see who comes out on top.”
Oakland opens the season at home against Texas on April 6 at 10:05 p.m. ET. Gray will fire the first pitch for a franchise vying for its first World Series title since 1989 – the same year Gray was born.