By Associated Press - Monday, March 16, 2015

MESA, Ariz. (AP) - Sonny Gray has been picked to start the Oakland Athletics’ opener for the second straight season.

Manager Bob Melvin made the announcement Monday, saying Gray will face Texas on April 6.

“He’s made for this. It’s kind of who he is,” Melvin said. “He’s extremely competitive, talented. He loves the spotlight games.”

Gray pitched six shutout innings against Cleveland in last year’s opener, just the second pitcher in Oakland history to not allow a run on opening day.

The 25-year-old went 14-10 last season - his first full year in the big leagues - and led the A’s in strikeouts (183) and innings (200).

Gray has been sharp this spring training while telling teammates and reporters he feels much better than he did a year ago.

Pitching in big games is nothing new for Gray. He pitched Games 2 and 5 against Detroit in the 2013 AL Division Series, going 1-1 in the two postseason starts.

“He’s just that much more comfortable now in the role that he’s in,” Melvin said. “He’s a little better about harnessing that energy, even though it’s always there.”

Melvin said Scott Kazmir will follow Gray in the rotation. Beyond that there is a lot of uncertainty, a point Melvin emphasized when he noted Monday he might not know the full rotation until the end of spring training.

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