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Sonny Gray to start A's opener

Sonny Gray was named the Oakland Athletics' Opening Day starter Sunday, a decision that was expected after injuries sidelined starters Jarrod Parker (torn ligament in pitching elbow) and A.J. Griffin (elbow ligament strain).

"I was excited," Gray said when manager Bob Melvin told him the news. "I don't think it changes preparation. I knew I was going to pitch at some point. I'm looking forward to a bullpen [session] and my last start of the spring [Wednesday]."

The A's open the 2014 season against the Cleveland Indians on March 31.

Gray has just 10 starts in regular-season play, but he's no stranger to the crowds. He was the ace of the staff at Vanderbilt, and he ended up with a pair of starts against the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander in the American League Division Series last October.

"He's very quickly become that guy for us," Melvin said. "He's not afraid of the spotlight."

Gray's low-key reaction didn't surprise his manager.

"The poise, the competitiveness, how driven he is," Melvin said of Gray's qualifications. "Whether he's throwing a bullpen, pitching in a game, he's the same guy all the time. He is prepared every single time."

Melvin said Sunday that Gray will be followed in Oakland's rotation by Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Dan Straily and Tommy Milone.

Gray will be Oakland's ninth Opening Day starter in as many years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.