As promised by GM Brian Cashman, the Yankees parted ways with RHP Sonny Gray this offseason as his short tenure in New York didn't pan out the way both sides believed it could have. Gray racked up a 4.90 ERA in 2018, with the Yankees forcing him to the bullpen toward the end of the season as he couldn't figure out his struggles on the mound.
But Gray took this offseason to regroup and learn what exactly went wrong with the Bombers, and he thinks he knows why he wasn't the effective pitcher he has been since breaking into the league in 2013.
The Yankees were forcing Gray to throw a slider -- a pitch he wasn't comfortable with.
"They love sliders," Gray told The Athletic's Eno Sarris. "Sliders are a great pitch. The numbers say slider is a good pitch, but you might not realize how many s--tty counts you're getting in while throwing all those sliders. They wanted me to be [Masahiro] Tanaka and I'm way different from him."
Gray goes on to say how he would find himself behind in the count 2-0, but sliders were still called for him to throw. He had good break on the pitch, but he had no control over where it would end up on the plate.
So, as Gray tried to correct that issue with the pitch, it only wound up being a spinner in the middle of the zone which looks like a beach ball to the hitter.
"When I try to throw sliders for a strike, I get around it and it's just a s--tty spinning pitch," he explained. "I don't know how people throw sliders for strikes that are still tight, good pitches. I'm at 2-0 and I'm throwing a slider, and either I'm throwing a s--tty slider in the zone, or I'm yanking it into the dirt and it's 3-0 and I"m screwed either way."
Gray's worst outings seemed to have come at Yankee Stadium, too. He collected a brutal 6.98 ERA in the Bronx in 2018, and he went to the Yankees' coaching staff asking what they thought the issues were.
"Am I nuts?," he asked. "Do you see a difference? What's the difference? They said, 'No, you've just been unlucky.' I was like, 'That's bulls--t.' "
Yankees manager Aaron Boone responded to Gray's comments by explaining there was some shared frustration.
"I don't know if I would characterize it as pushing him to be successful," he said, per ESPN's Coley Harvey. "He throws a slider...We tried as best we could to try and get him to be successful. So I think we all kind of shared in the frustration at times. I know he was frustrated. We were. But we just tried to get him to be the best he could be and as successful as he could be."
Now with the Reds, Gray is hoping for a big bounce-back season in 2019. And the key, in his mind, is to go back to what worked before he donned the pinstripes.
"I need to throw my curveball a lot more," he said. "Trust it. Use it."