Sonny Gray. (Terry Dobbins/Flickr)

Sonny Gray shut down, possibly extending this young pitcher’s stay with A’s

The Oakland Athletics announced on Thursday that Sonny Gray would be shut down for three weeks with a moderate lat sprain.

Gray, who was being considered for the team’s Opening Day starter, will likely not see game action until late April.

As a result of the injury, Gray’s efforts to bounce back from a career-worst 2016 will be delayed. The former first-round pick out of Vanderbilt finished last season with a career-worst 5.69 earned run average. Just one year earlier, in 2015, Gray was named to the AL All-Star team, finished third in AL Cy Young voting and finished with an ERA of 2.73.

The righty started Opening Day in 2014 and 2015, throwing 14 scoreless innings over the two years. He was scratched from his Opening Day start in 2016 due to illness.

Raul Alcantara is likely to be the biggest benefactor from Gray’s absence. The 24-year-old pitcher from the Dominican Republic — acquired from the Red Sox for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney following the 2011 season — is out of options. Alcantara is the last remaining member of the trade package with the A’s after Josh Reddick was sent to the Los Angeles Dodgers at last year’s trade deadline.

Alcantara carried a 7.25 ERA in five big-league starts in September, but improved that number to 1.18 in eight starts at Triple-A Nashville in 2016 after recovering from Tommy John surgery. Alcantara’s career minor-league ERA sits at 3.52 despite pitching at Stockton and other hitter-friendly parks on the West Coast.

Alcantara was in competition with Jesse Hahn and Andrew Triggs for the fifth spot. With Gray’s injury, that competition now appears to be for two spots instead of just one. Daniel Gossett, a second-round pick out of Clemson in 2014, may have a shot at cracking the rotation. An opportunity could also be extended to Frankie Montas, who was also acquired from the Dodgers in the Reddick deal.

As for Opening Day, Kendall Graveman projects to get the start on April 3 against the Angels as the most veteran member of the staff. Graveman was acquired in November of 2014 in the Josh Donaldson trade, and has a career ERA of 4.08 in 52 starts. In 2016, Graveman threw his first career complete game on August 19 against the White Sox, a two-hit shutout.andrew triggsdaniel gossettJesse HahnKendall GravemanMajor League BaseballMLBOakland Athleticsraul alcantaraSonny Gray

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