02/19/2013 2:21 PM ET
Griffin fighting for No. 5 spot despite rookie season
By William Boor / MLB.com
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Prior to the 2012 season, Oakland right-hander A.J. Griffin spent the offseason working at a Nike Store and figuring out how he was going to pay the next month's rent.
Fast forward a year and Griffin is coming off a successful rookie campaign in which he went 7-1 with a 3.06 ERA. Griffin's latest offseason, spent in San Diego, was extremely different and a lot less stressful.
"It was pretty nice [to] have some piece of mind," Griffin said. "It does bring a sense of confidence, but at the same time you don't want to get overly confident and cocky. You want to respect the game and keep your nose to the grindstone and keep grinding it out. I'm looking forward to getting out there and competing with the guys."
And that's exactly what he will have to do.
Despite the impressive rookie season, which included a start and a no-decision in the American League Division Series, Griffin enters 2013 fighting for a spot in the A's rotation.
Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and Bartolo Colon (after he serves the remaining five games of his suspension) appear to have secured the first four slots in the rotation. This leaves Griffin and Dan Straily fighting for the fifth and final spot.
The 25-year old Griffin certainly wants to begin the season in Oakland's rotation, but is not going to place any extra emphasis on winning the job this spring. Instead, he is simply going to go out there and play, letting the rest take care of itself.
"[I'll just] focus on the stuff that's under my control, and try to do the best I can every time I go out there," Griffin said. "The pieces will fall where they fall."
In order to help him win that job, Griffin altered his offseason program. It may seem odd for someone coming off a successful season to change his routine, but the A's advised Griffin to give himself a bit more rest, so that's what he did.
Instead of his usual December 15 start, Griffin began his throwing program around the new year and feels ready to go.
Gray more confident heading into second spring camp
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- After an eye-opening Spring Training in 2012, right-handed pitcher Sonny Gray spent the majority of the 2012 season with Double-A Midland. However, after experiencing a full camp, Oakland's 2011 first round Draft pick enters 2013 with a renewed sense of confidence.
"Coming into the second camp it is night and day different from the first," Gray said. "Knowing a lot of the guys that are here this year, not being nervous walking around, [and] being able to be myself is huge. That's the biggest difference between this year and last year."
In Double-A, Gray compiled a 6-9 record with 4.14 ERA. He also made one start for Triple-A Sacramento, and had an appearance in the playoffs. With the added experience, the former 18th overall pick altered his offseason routine in anticipation of starting 2013 in Sacramento.
While Gray was used to to playing catch and resuming baseball activities around the beginning of January, he elected to begin preparing for the 2013 season in the middle of December.
"I did a lot more baseball related things in the offseason, which was just fielding ground balls or more picks, more baseball activities to get into the baseball thing sooner than spring training," Gray said.
In his one regular-season start for Sacramento, Gray allowed four earned runs in four innings. The 23-year-old noticed the difference in talent from Midland to Sacramento, but now knows what to expect in Triple-A.
In addition to last season's experience, Gray will also be able to rely on the experience he gains picking the brains of current Major Leaguers during Spring Training.
"Everyone kind of just talks here and there," Gray said of the pitchers in camp. "There's a bunch of young guys in here and everyone kind of knows everyone and picks up things from everyone."
Depending on Gray's performance in Sacramento, as well as the health and success of Oakland's rotation, there is a chance Gray could make an appearance for the big league club as early as this year. However, Gray refuses to let that thought enter his mind as he is simply focused on one thing.
"I'm just trying to get better and learn as much as I can in Spring Training," Gray said.
• Michael Ynoa, Oakland's 21-year old pitching prospect, is expected to travel from the Dominican Republic on Wednesday and join the team Thursday, manager Bob Melvin said. Since Ynoa is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, there is no timetable to get him into a game. "You don't want to rush a guy like that, especially with his injury history," Melvin said. "We will play it by ear every time we see him."
• Less than a week after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, closer Grant Balfour was expected to play catch Tuesday. Balfour had surgery Thursday and was rehabbing Friday. The right-handed is expected to miss four to six weeks.
• Josh Reddick turned 26 on Tuesday.
William Boor is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.