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Apr 9, 2024 7:26 am

Sonny Gray set for debut as Cards seek to even series vs. Phillies

Sonny Gray

The St. Louis Cardinals had planned to ease new staff ace Sonny Gray into the starting rotation after he recovered from a hamstring injury he suffered during spring training.

The team also had intended to give Gray a minor league rehabilitation start this week. But the 34-year-old right-hander convinced manager Oliver Marmol that he was ready to debut for the team.

Signed to a three-year, $75 million contract in the offseason, Gray will face the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday night in the second contest of a three-game series in St. Louis. The Phillies posted a 5-3 win in 10 innings on Monday night.

“(Gray) is as direct and honest of a human as you can ever encounter,” Marmol said. “If he says he is 100 percent himself and ready to go, from my seat I trust that. … His competitive demeanor and personality are contagious — you can’t have enough of it. We have a good amount of it at the moment. Adding him to it seems like it could get fun.”

Last season with the Minnesota Twins, Gray finished second in the American League Cy Young Award balloting with an 8-8 record and 2.79 ERA in 32 starts.

Gray, a three-time All-Star, will return with roughly a 65-pitch limit. Zack Thompson pitched two fill-in starts in his place, so he could provide multi-inning back-up.

“Physically, I feel great, Gray said. “And mentally I’m in a great spot. I’m more than capable to go out and compete in a big-league game. We talked through it, and as long as it worked out where it didn’t feel like we were going to put too much stress on the bullpen or this and that, and collectively as a team, I wasn’t going to put the team in a bad spot by maybe only having 60 to 70 pitches.

“But I feel normal and capable of getting outs.”

Gray is 1-1 with a 3.33 ERA in five career starts against the Phillies.

He might work with fill-in catcher Ivan Herrera in Tuesday’s game. Regular Cardinals catcher Willson Contreras missed the last four games with a hand contusion sustained when he was hit by a pitch.

The Phillies will start right-hander Zack Wheeler (0-1, 0.75 ERA), who has been a victim of tough luck this season. Philadelphia lost his first two starts even though he allowed just one earned run on eight hits in 12 innings.

Wheeler was the losing pitcher in his team’s 4-1 defeat to the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday in his most recent start while being victimized by two unearned runs.

“It is what it is,” Wheeler said. “There’s nothing we can do about it now. We’ve just got to play a little more consistently and we’ll be right where we want to be.”

Phillies manager Rob Thomson liked how Wheeler navigated his start against the Reds.

“He used his secondary pitches,” Thomson said. “A lot of the sweepers they were showing, they actually (splitters). But I thought his command was really good. His velocity was down, so he mixed in a lot more off-speed pitches and he pitched.”

Wheeler has struck out 15 this season and walked only one. He is 4-3 with a 2.44 ERA in seven career starts against the Cardinals.

–Field Level Media

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