PHOENIX -- Last fall, Sonny Gray, just 23 years old and 10 starts into his big league career, was the A's pick in Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers over 18-game winner Bartolo Colon.
This year, he's the choice as the A's opening day starter over everybody.
The 24-year-old right-hander got the nod from manager Bob Melvin on Sunday morning with the regular season beginning in just a week. He's young, but the A's like his makeup, not to mention his pitches.
"It was a hard call last year," Melvin said, suggesting this year's call was less so once it became clear Jarrod Parker's Tommy John surgery eliminated the favorite for the job. "But he's always shown poise, always been a complete competitor."
Gray said that while he'd read about the opening day possibility, he didn't try to count days to figure out if he was on path to that and "I just found out today," he said.
Melvin said Gray had been used to the pressure being a "Friday night guy," at Vanderbilt, meaning Gray would start the first game of every weekend series for the Commodores.
And Gray, who pitched well but lost Game 5 to the Tigers, liked the analogy.
"It was always the game that would set the tone for the series, like this will," Gray said. "You'd go into Saturday either 1-0 or 0-1, so Friday was a big, big game."
Gray will be followed in the rotation by Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Dan Straily and Tommy Milone. Even with Parker, Gray was considered a contender for the opening day assignment against Cleveland on March 31.
"He's very quickly become one of those guys," Melvin said of Gray, who was 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA after his promotion to the big leagues last year and then pitched eight shutout innings in Game 2 of the playoffs against Detroit before taking the 3-0 loss in Game 5.
Kazmir was the other candidate to go in the opener.
Chavez and Milone had to be added to the rotation when Parker and A.J. Griffin exited, so "we're comfortable with any of those guys" pitching anywhere in the rotation, the manager said.
By avoiding big league games for the rest of the spring, those three will be eligible to come off the D.L. on April 5 having missed only the first five games of the season.
Cook came into spring training with shoulder discomfort, Rodriguez had Tommy John surgery about a year ago, and Gentry has been battling lower back pain. All three are feeling good now, and the extra time may be enough to have them ready to go.
"They will continue to play in minor league games so that we can backdate them," Melvin said, adding the three were put on the D.L. retroactive to last week.
The team says it was detected early, and he is expected to make a full recovery. DeFrancesco, 50, will undergo treatments for five to six weeks at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Tom Lawless will serve as Oklahoma City's interim manager until his expected return in May.
DeFrancesco has managed the RedHawks since 2011 and led the team to a Pacific Coast league-leading 82-62 record last season. In 2012 he was the Astros' interim manager for the last 41 games after Brad Mills was fired. In 2008, DeFrancesco was the A's third base coach. He also managed the A's Triple-A team in Sacramento for six seasons.