One of Sonny Gray's favorite quotes is "Walk softly and carry a big stick." He interprets the famous Theodore Roosevelt line as a call to carry himself with a quiet confidence every time he takes the mound and let his pitches do the talking.
In his first two starts of 2012, Oakland's No. 4 prospect felt he'd let his excitement level get too high. On Thursday, though, he was back to walking softly.
Gray (1-1) allowed one run on four hits and a walk while striking out five over seven innings en route to his first win of the year as Midland topped San Antonio, 4-1.
The 22-year-old had allowed nine runs -- six earned -- in his previous two starts, but put it together against the Missions in an outing reminiscent of the success he had in his first professional exposure last season, when he sported a 0.45 ERA in 20 Texas League innings.
"I've been trying to curb my energy level. My excitement out there has been really high, but today I was a little more quiet," said the Vanderbilt University product. "I was just out there doing my thing, making my pitches and not getting too excited."
MLB.com's No. 85 overall prospect said he noticed San Antonio hitters swinging early and often as the game got underway.
"We figured out in the first two innings they were going to be super-aggressive, and then we tried to use that to our advantage," Gray said. "I tried to expand the zone on the first pitch and got a lot of weak contact that way. The two-seam fastball was running in on right-handers and they were swinging at it, and the breaking ball was there for me finally again. It hadn't kind of been there the first two outings, but it was there tonight."
The outing, Gray's longest in three starts, brought his ERA down to 3.50 in 18 innings to begin the season. The No. 18 pick in the 2011 Draft had walked six in his previous 11 innings, but issued just one free pass against the Missions.
The right-hander credited his calmer nerves and a solid defense behind him for the reversal of course after his first two outings.
"I just felt like I was getting more into my rhythm. I didn't try to do too much," he said. "They were making great plays behind me, sucking it up and throwing them out at first. All you can ask for is to get up there and give your team a chance to win. Hopefully, I can continue to do that."
The left side of the RockHounds' infield provided Gray with most of his run support. Shortstop Dusty Coleman collected three hits and drove in two of Midland's four runs, while third baseman Josh Horton added two doubles.