Sonny Gray (back) cleared to start Monday vs. Orioles

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A’s right-hander Sonny Gray had to be scratched from his last turn in the starting rotation Thursday afternoon against the Blue Jays because of back spasms. But all is well with the Oakland ace …

MLB.com’s Jane Lee reports that Gray, who made it through a 25-pitch bullpen session on Saturday at Camden Yards, has been cleared to start Monday in the Athletics’ series finale versus the Orioles.

Felix Doubront will step back one day and face off against Clayton Kershaw in the A’s series opener against the Dodgers on Tuesday night in Oakland.

Gray, 25, owns an exceptional 2.06 ERA, 0.959 WHIP, and 136/40 K/BB ratio in 161 2/3 innings (23 starts) this season with the A’s.

He is headed toward some serious Cy Young Award consideration.

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

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There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.