While the Cincinnati Reds were beating the Pittsburgh Pirates in Cincinnati on Monday night one of their ace pitchers was 90 minutes away in Louisville making a start at the team’s alternate site. Sonny Gray, who had his spring training interrupted when he began experiencing back spasms, pitched against the Kansas City Royals alternate site team at Louisville Slugger Field in the first game held between alternate site teams this month.
“It was good,” said Gray after the start. “I felt great. I treated it as close to a normal start as I could. It was nice to get out there with umpires and a game. I felt really, really good. I think it was needed, for sure. Going into it I wanted to treat it as much like a normal start as I could. I was ready to roll. I think it went very well and I was very pleased with how I threw the ball.”
On the night, Sonny Gray threw 60 pitches in 4.2 innings and allowed two runs. The right-handed starter gave up a home run and seven hits while picking up six strikeouts in the game. For Gray, it felt like a normal game.
“They jumped me early,” Gray said. “They were swinging super early. First batter I faced, leadoff single, stole second, bunt – like I got a little PFP action – I was like “man”. It was hit and run, bunts. They swung at the first pitch like the first nine hitters.”
“It was the alternate site opening day, so here you go – I was the opening day starter here,” joked Gray. “But it was a normal game, it was a Triple-A or Alternate Site – however you want to do it, game. Umpires. Fans. The only thing that was different about it was the stadium and the personnel from what has been in Cincinnati. It was as game as a game gets.”
Of course, the reason that Sonny Gray was at the ballpark in Louisville on Monday night and not in Cincinnati with the Reds as they beat the Pirates was because his back issues. Things went well in that area on the evening.
“We were talking about earlier in spring before we left Arizona we were talking about trying to come up with a new routine between innings,” Gray said. “I felt very good with what we were doing. I was able to stay loose. I really had no issues the last two or three times I’ve taken the mound. The last time I was in Cincinnati and I threw before Opening Day and I tried to treat that as close to a start as possible. And then today was a start and we as a staff and personnel and everyone involved has created this routine to take care of some problems I’m having – I think it’s been beneficial. We’ve used some things to our advantage as far as some heat, basically. Keep yourself hot between innings and I felt really good with it.”
It’s been a long time since Louisville had a baseball game with fans at Louisville Slugger Field. Not only did they get the alternate site experience, though, they got to see one of the best pitchers in baseball pitch on Monday night. Sonny Gray could feel the energy at the park and how much people were happy about having the game back in the city.
“It seemed like the fans were very excited. I think they felt like they were very happy to be here. I think just across the big leagues, but it trickles down to the alternate sites and Triple-A, I think baseball is bringing a lot of joy to people. I really do. I just feel like baseball is bringing joy to people and it’s so nice to see smiling faces in the stands. It was a really good feeling to hear your name, to get the applause, to get the boos, to get the 6-7-8-9 year old kids telling you to strike this dude out – it was a good feeling. And then I give up the homer and I hear them saying that, too, “you should have thrown the curveball” and I’m like “I did”. It was very cool.”