Sonny Gray Demoted to Yankees’ Bullpen Amid Struggles, Racist Tweet

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Sonny Gray Demoted to Yankees’ Bullpen Amid Struggles, Racist Tweet
New York Yankees starting pitcher Sonny Gray winds up during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, June 13, 2018, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

Sonny Gray was acquired by the New York Yankees at last year’s non-waiver trade deadline to be a front-line starter for the postseason, but after struggling mightily this season, he has lost his spot in the rotation. 

New York general manager Brian Cashman told WFAN’s Chris Carlin on Thursday that Gray will be moved to the bullpen, and recent acquisition Lance Lynn will join the rotation.

Gray understood the decision, according to YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits: “I’ve struggled and they’ve given me ample opportunity to figure it out. I continued to grind … I’m going to go to the pen and continue to try to figure it out.”

It was just a few years ago that Gray appeared to be the next great pitcher, as he was named to the American League All-Star team and finished third in AL Cy Young award voting in 2015, just his second full season in the majors. However, he has not been able to build on that early success.

The right-hander had mixed results after being acquired in a midseason trade last year, going 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA in 11 starts. He allowed five runs in just 8.1 innings over two postseason starts as well.

This year, though, has not featured many bright spots for Gray. The 28-year-old has managed an 8-8 record despite a 5.56 ERA and a 1.524 WHIP in 21 starts. His strikeouts per nine innings (8.6) are slightly up, but his walks per nine (4.0) and hits per nine (9.7) are among the worst of his career.

New York hoped Gray could shake off the struggles eventually, and he even seemed to be getting on track in July allowing just two earned runs over his final three starts of the month. However, he was roughed up for seven runs in just 2.2 innings against the 33-75 Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday. To make matters worse, he was caught smiling while being booed off the field.

He revealed to reporters after the game that smiling was his way of handling his frustration, via ESPN (around the 1:09 mark):

And then there’s his off-the-field controversy. Gray recently became one of a handful of players around the league to come under fire for racist tweets from the past. He wrote that off as an “inside joke” between him and a former teammate, and he has since deleted all of his tweets.

The Yankees made starting pitching a priority at the deadline, trading for Lynn and J.A. Happ. Happ has since landed on the disabled list, but New York (68-38) is now turning to Lynn over Gray as it looks to catch the Boston Red Sox (75-34) in the AL East.

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