Sonny Gray gets a spot start Tuesday night against the Twins as the New York Yankees try to give their regular starting pitchers a breather for the stretch run.
Gray lost his spot in the rotation in August after he gave up seven runs on eight hits in just 2 2/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Aug. 1. That left him 8-8 with a 5.56 ERA through 21 starts.
He's shown signs of improvement since his demotion and has a 1.83 ERA over his last six outings, including a spot start in the second game of a doubleheader in Baltimore when he allowed three hits over 6 1/3 scoreless innings.
"(He's been) a little more on the attack, maybe a little more trusting of his stuff and maybe not overanalyzing or overthinking every sequence," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "As we've talked about all year, when he's attacking with his stuff, he's so capable of being a really good pitcher. And he's shown that really since moving to the pen."
Gray learned about the assignment over the weekend and threw a bullpen session Sunday to prepare for what may be his last start of the season.
"I feel good," Gray said. "My outings may have had gaps in between them but I can do whatever is needed. I feel like I am throwing the ball well and continue to take steps in the right direction."
Gray will try to help the Yankees improve to 6-0 against the Twins this season. The Yankees opened the series with a 7-2 win on Monday when Gary Sanchez homered and had three hits.
The right-hander is 2-3 with a 5.23 ERA in six career starts against the Twins.
Gray will be facing a Twins team still missing third baseman Miguel Sano.
Sano has been sidelined since injuring his left knee sliding into second base last week at Houston. The team had hoped to get him back by the weekend but when he didn't make the anticipated progress, Sano went in for further testing.
An MRI revealed no structural damage, but his knee still isn't responding enough to resume a full workload.
"Progress is slow," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "Lot of time in the training room trying to figure out how we can alleviate symptoms that are being preventative of him being able to get into some baseball activities. It hasn't gone probably like anybody expected after we got the news that everything looked good, in terms of any specific injury other than some soreness and swelling. But it's been slow."
Tyler Austin isn't back yet either, as he recovers from a back issue, but took batting practice Monday and is getting closer to a return.
"He did some work and flip drills," Molitor said. "He looked pretty normal, I haven't had a chance to see how he got through that portion. But what I can tell so far, everything's been positive."
Molitor will use an "opener" for Game 2 of the series. Right-hander Tyler Duffey (1-2, 9.00 ERA) will get 1-2 innings of work with the Twins' bullpen covering the rest of the game.
Duffey is 1-0 with a 5.54 ERA in six career appearances against the Yankees.
Tuesday was supposed to be Kohl Stewart's day to start, but he'll be passed over this time through the rotation with Jake Odorizzi taking the mound Wednesday in the series finale.