SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A's manager Bob Melvin has seen young right-hander Sonny Gray pitch in 14 major league games, but the manager is treating Gray as if he were a player with five or six years of experience behind him.
On Thursday, however, some of the inexperience showed. Gray, whose big-league resume consists of 12 starts and 77 innings counting last year's postseason, looked a little shellshocked. The first four batters up for the Arizona Diamondbacks hit him hard, including a two-run double by Martin Prado, and it was all Gray could do to finish the first inning.
He was charged with four runs, let a three-run lead slip away and never looked quite himself.
"The next time out next week, I'm going to approach hitters differently," Gray said. "I want to go out there trying to make it (feel like) more of a regular-season game."
Gray, a second-year pitcher who is locked into one of the five spots in the A's rotation, threw mostly fastballs and changeups and did not have command of the strike zone with either.
As a result, the Diamondbacks were able to tee off. He gave up five hits and four runs in a game that wound up tied 8-8 when it was called after the 10th inning.
It was a feeling Gray hasn't experienced much on the fast track from Vanderbilt to Oakland.
"I felt good, but it doesn't matter how good your stuff is," he said. "When you are 2-0 to every batter, you'll get hit."
Said Melvin, "They hit some fastballs up (in the strike zone). You'll have some outings like that. He just needs to get his work in."
Much of Gray's trouble was with the changeup, and he threw only "one or two curves," a pitch that was big for him last year
"I threw some good (changeups), but there were definitely some that got hit," he said. "It's definitely something I'm still working on."
The A's see the fastball and curve as Gray's two major weapons, but they would like to see the changeup come along as a third pitch, particularly if he could throw it to left-handed hitters in big situations.
"He'll need a third pitch," Melvin said, "especially to left-handers."
The original plan Thursday was to have Gray throw two, or even three, innings and get to about 45 pitches.
The length of the first inning forced the A's to scrap that plan, although Melvin said it was a minor matter.
"I wasn't going to send him out there again after such a long first inning," he said. "It's too early in the season. We've got a lot of time to build up his pitch count."
Join beat writer John Hickey for a live A's chat on Friday at 11:30 a.m. at www.mercurynews.com/athletics.