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Gray takes mound for A's vs. Jays amid trade rumors

TORONTO -- The Sonny Gray watch continues.

As the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches, the Oakland Athletics starter is expected to be a target for several teams.

Gray will start for the Athletics against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night in the second game of a four-game series at the Rogers Centre.

Cesar Valdez, who opened the season with Oakland, will start for the Blue Jays.

Toronto (45-54) won the series opener Monday night 4-2. Oakland (44-55) managed only two hits, one a homer by Matt Chapman, giving him home runs in three consecutive games. The season series between the teams is tied 2-2.

Gray has been on a roll, going 4-1 with a 1.62 ERA and a .155 opponents' batting average over his past five starts, which enhances his value.

The right-hander keeps his focus on the mound and not the trade talk.

"If (a trade) comes, then I'll have to address that and think of that when it comes, but as of now, it hasn't," he said when the team was in New York last weekend to play the Mets. "So, there's no reason for me to spend any time or energy because no one really knows what's going on except for a few people. No one knows, so we'll see."

A's manager Bob Melvin said in New York, "He's been around for a little while, so it's not like he's a rookie and having to deal with this. It doesn't look like at this point the distractions have been bothering him because he's been pitching as well as he has in a couple of years at this point."

The Blue Jays were 3-7 on a road trip that started their schedule after the All-Star break, and that will influence their approach to the deadline.

General manager Ross Atkins said the team will be looking to 2018 with any moves it might make.

He told a media scrum before the game Monday that there are no untouchables, "but there are a number of guys that we don't have many discussions about. When you think about an organization, it's really about young, controllable talent. So, any way that you can do that, we'll look to do that.

"We feel like we have underperformed and underachieved offensively and defensively. Our relief pitching's been pretty strong. Our starting pitching's been OK until the last couple of weeks. So, it's not position-specific right now. It's more about controllable young talent."

Gray (6-4, 3.66 ERA) will be facing the Blue Jays for the first time since July 16, 2016, at Oakland when he was the winning pitcher in a 5-4 victory. He allowed six hits, four walks and three runs.

He is 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in five career starts against Toronto.

Gray has better results at home than away from Oakland. In 10 starts at the Coliseum this season, he is 5-2 with a 3.08 ERA and a .208 opponents' batting average. In five starts on the road, he is 1-2 with a 4.85 ERA and a .274 opponents' batting average.

Valdez will make his first start for the Blue Jays on Tuesday. It will be the second start for him this season and the fourth of his major league career.

His other start this season was for Oakland on April 20 when he allowed five hits, two walks and three runs (two earned) in four innings and did not factor in the decision against the Seattle Mariners. He had four strikeouts in the Athletics' 9-6 win.

Valdez's first two starts were with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010. He is 1-1 with a 6.92 ERA in his three starts.

The Blue Jays acquired him off waivers May 5, two days after Oakland designated him for assignment.

Valdez has a 2.70 ERA in four relief outings with Toronto, and he went 3-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) with Triple-A Buffalo.

On Wednesday, he pitched four scoreless innings in relief, allowing one hit while striking out five in Toronto's 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox. He also allowed four hits and one run in 1 2/3 innings against the Indians on Friday, a game Cleveland won 13-3.

Valdez will be facing Oakland for the first time in his career.

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