Gray attributed some of his struggles last season to the Yankees' strong preference for sliders.
Former Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray ripped the Bronx Bombers, saying that part of his struggles last season were rooted in the fact that the Yankees had Gray throwing too many sliders. Gray also said that his sliders aren't his strong suit, calling them just "a s----y spinning pitch," in a new interview with The Athletic.
New York is known for breaking balls, as evidenced by their conversion of Masahiro Tanaka into a slider and splitter pitcher. Gray said that they had him throwing more breaking balls than he had before in his career, but those aren't his strengths.
“They love sliders,” Gray said of his former team. “Sliders are a great pitch. The numbers say slider is a good pitch, but you might not realize how many s----- counts you’re getting in while throwing all those sliders. They wanted me to be Tanaka and I’m way different from him.”
He added: “I can’t command my slider that well. I want to throw my slider in the dirt with two strikes, and that’s about it. I don’t have that type of slider, like Tanaka’s slider. His slider, the catcher will catch it, and the batter will swing and miss. If I get a swing and miss, the catcher is blocking it in the dirt. When I try to throw sliders for a strike, I get around it and it’s just a s----y spinning pitch. 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----y slider in the zone, or I’m yanking it into the dirt and it’s 3-0 and I’m screwed either way."
The Yankees traded Gray to the Cincinnati Reds during the offseason in exchange for minor-league second baseman Shed Long, who they then traded to the Mariners.
The new Reds starter said that through offseason training with his old coaches at Vanderbilt, who used new technology to analyze his pitches, he learned that he needs to throw his curveball "a lot more," than his slider. He attributes having to lean too heavily on his slider as part of the reason his season went sideways.
“I didn’t throw as many curveballs, and that’s when it started to morph and lose shape,” Gray said of his disappointing 2018 season.
Gray finished the season with a 4.90 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and 123 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings pitched. His struggles on the mound got him demoted to the bullpen shortly after New York traded for pitcher J.A. Happ from the Toronto Blue Jays and Lance Lynn from the Minnesota Twins to improve their starting rotation.
The Yankees acquired Gray on July 31, 2017 from the Oakland Athletics just before the non-waiver trade deadline. He posted a 3.72 ERA in his 11 starts in pinstripes after the trade.