PHOENIX -- At this time last year, all eyes were on Sonny Gray. Yet on Friday, Bob Melvin didn't even bother to get a look at the right-hander throwing live batting practice.
"I purposely didn't watch Sonny today," said Melvin, smiling. "I didn't want to see him break any bats or hurt any feelings."
"When he told me that," said Gray, "I kind of laughed. What a difference a year makes."
Indeed. Gray was still a prospect last spring and months from making his big league debut. Fast forward through 10 impressive starts and another two in the playoffs, and the 24-year-old is now a staple at the top of Oakland's rotation.
Through it all, Gray has continually showcased improved fastball command. That was no different on Friday at Papago Park, where Yoenis Cespedes stepped away from the plate, shaking his head and commenting, "He looks real good. Very fast!"
Gray, who also faced Josh Reddick, threw a total of 16 fastballs, 10 changeups and four curveballs.
"My fastball location and movement were both really good today," he said. "That's something that we worked hard on, all throughout last year and even this offseason in the early bullpens. That's why I came in here two weeks early, to get working on that even more with the coaches. Hopefully, that continues to go in the right direction."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.