On Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Sonny Gray’s rehab start on Saturday in Triple-A, he wanted to check a few boxes in his three innings on the mound.
In the first inning, he said he focused on how he was feeling in his first appearance since he strained his right groin on June 9. In the second inning, Gray focused more on his pitches and moving them around the zone. In the third inning, Gray wanted to take another step forward with how his pitches felt.
Gray checked every box, and now he’ll join the Reds rotation on Friday to start against the Chicago Cubs.
“(I was) just going through the process of being on the IL, not trying to rush anything at the beginning of it,” Gray said. “Then, just being sure that my body was feeling good going through everything, try to stay sharp and try to stay as focused (on) baseball-related (activity) as possible but also have some days to yourself to get yourself right, get your body feeling right.”
Gray threw three scoreless innings with the Louisville Bats on Saturday and will get five days rest between starts.
He last pitched for the Reds on June 8, and Gray was hurt on a warm up pitch before the fourth inning. Unlike his trip to the injured list in April (mid-back injury), Gray kept throwing while he recovered.
“I didn't take a ton of time off from throwing, I threw three bullpens with the team and then I went to Louisville,” Gray said. “I kind of kept my arm moving the whole time. In spring when I went down, I didn't play catch for a long time, so that process was different. (This time), I just kept my arm moving, kept my body moving as long as I could, kept in the game as best as I could.”
When Gray returns, the Reds will get their 2020 Opening Day starter back in the rotation. Gray has a 3.42 ERA in 2021, and he had a 2.48 ERA over his seven most recent starts.
On Friday, Gray said he’ll have no limitations and will pitch until manager David Bell takes him out of the game.
“I feel 100 percent now moving forward,” Gray said. “Obviously the goal is to stay that way and do what I can do to put my body and myself in the best position.”
PÉREZ’S FAST START: In his first appearances after a four-week stretch in Triple-A, reliever Cionel Pérez had two strikeouts in his return to the Reds bullpen on Saturday.
Both of those strikeouts came with his 97 mph fastball. Pérez changed his arm angle for that pitch in Triple-A so he could locate his fastball better in the strike zone.
“I’ve made a lot of changes with my mechanics, especially with my fastball,” Pérez said through interpreter Jorge Merlos. “I just have to be very consistent in my fastball getting it in the zone, especially high in the zone. That’ll get a lot of swings and misses.”
On his fastball, Pérez now uses an over-the-top throwing motion instead of a more sidearm angle. Pérez walked 18 hitters in 17 ⅓ innings before he went to Triple-A, and he made this change to address that issue.
“Really it’s all about locating it first in the zone and then you get ahead of the batter,” Pérez said. “That way you can work off that fastball. That’s really important for me, locating it in the zone and getting ahead of the batter.”
HEINEMAN DFA’D: The Reds promoted infielder Alejo Lopez on Monday and designated outfielder Scott Heineman for assignment.
Heinemen had been starting against left-handed pitchers and was in Sunday’s starting lineup, but he was 3-for-30 at the plate this season.
“He just wasn’t playing, he wasn’t getting a lot of at-bats,” Bell said. “We know what he can do. That’s why he was here. He has shown in the past that he can produce, particularly against left-handed pitching.”
“We’ll see what happens with him. The big thing with Scott, it had a lot to do with how well Lopez was playing and him forcing the issue.
INJURY UPDATES: Starting pitcher Jeff Hoffman (right shoulder impingement) will continue to rehab in Triple-A with the Louisville Bats. He’s expected to make his next start on Friday.
Reds center fielder Tyler Naquin (right wrist soreness) was scratched from the starting lineup before Monday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Shogo Akiyama took Naquin’s spot in the lineup.