Sonny Gray will start the 2020 season opener for the Cincinnati Reds, manager David Bell announced Wednesday.
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"His reaction was almost like he was expecting it," Bell said. "He has so much respect for his fellow starters that he didn't make a big deal out of it with me, but I could tell by his reaction that it meant a lot to him. He's just so focused. He kind of took it in stride."
Gray was 11-8 with a 2.87 ERA in 31 starts last season. It was his first season with the Reds. He pitched most of his career with the Oakland A’s before being traded to the New York Yankees in 2017.
"There's no denying the fact that Sonny has stepped up," Bell said. "He's a leader. He sets a great example. He also had a great season last year. We couldn't have asked for a better option to set the tone for the season for our rotation."
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The Reds play the Detroit Tigers on Opening Day to start the 60-game season July 24 at Great American Ball Park, starting a three-game series. They then play four games at home against the Chicago Cubs.
Luis Castillo, who started the opener last season, and Trevor Bauer will pitch the second two games against the Tigers. Wade Miley and Anthony DeSclafani will pitch the first two games against the Cubs.
Tyler Mahle and Lucas Sims will be the top candidates to pitch in long relief to start the season.
"We believe in all our guys so much," Bell said. "We could have come up with any order and felt great about it. Some of it had to do with their readiness. That was kind of the No. 1 factor. The second factor was to the best of our ability matching up with our opposition the best we can."
Bell said the Reds had not decided on an Opening Day starter when spring training was suspended by the coronavirus pandemic March 12.
"Every time we got close, something made us back off finalizing it," Bell said. "Maybe it was the whole pandemic. But for whatever reason, we never got there."
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