SEATTLE – Sonny Gray, selected to his third career All-Star Game, looks at the three as separate chapters in his career.

He went in 2015 when he had begun to establish himself with the Athletics. He returned in 2019 with the Reds, which he says was the first time he had to reinvent himself as a pitcher. Tuesday's All-Star Game, he says, represents how the 33-year-old is still on top toward the end of his career.

"Coming here again, it's something I expect out of myself," said Gray, who entered the All-Star break with a 2.89 ERA in 18 starts with the Twins this season. "I still consider myself one of the better pitchers in baseball."

In the past eight years, Gray has gone from the wide-eyed newcomer at the All-Star Game to one of the pitchers dishing out advice to his peers. He talked pitching with Mariners ace Luis Castillo on Monday morning and he hoped to carry out more conversations throughout his two-day stay in Seattle.

He falls under the category of several pitchers' favorite pitcher.

"The thing that changed is now the metrics are on every scoreboard," said Tigers All-Star pitcher Michael Lorenzen, who was Gray's teammate from 2019 to '21. "Everyone is looking at every pitch he throws and seeing 18 [inches] horizontal on his breaking ball and all this stuff, and you're like, 'man, this makes sense now. We don't have a chance up there.' "

Twins pitcher Joe Ryan, who grew up in the Bay Area, watched Gray pitch for the A's when he was in high school and college.

"I was more of a Giants fan then, but I was definitely a Sonny Gray fan for a long time," Ryan said. "Just getting to play with him and see why he's been so successful, it just makes sense. The first time you meet him and talk to him, it all comes together."

There were plenty of people who helped Gray at the beginning of his career. He remembered David Price, a fellow Vanderbilt alum, telling him to "be yourself" when they were at the 2015 All-Star Game together.

One of the best compliments Gray received came in Game 3 of the 2013 American League Division Series. He was lights out in Game 2, pitching eight scoreless innings for Oakland against the Tigers. During a benches-clearing incident at the end of Game 3, Gray remembers staying in the background as players yelled at one another. A's interpreter Ariel Prieto told Gray, "Miggy wants to see you."

Gray, who was in his first major league season, was confused. This was during the middle of the benches clearing. Prieto reiterated, "Cabrera." Gray shuffled around and didn't know what to expect.

"I get over to Cabrera and he's like, 'hey, you've got good stuff, man. You've got good stuff,' " Gray said. "I'm like: 'Thank you, Mr. Cabrera. I appreciate that.' I didn't know what was happening."

Now, Gray is at the other stage of his career, trying to serve as a Price, Cabrera or another veteran mentor to everyone around the league.

"He prepares so consistently," Ryan said. "The baseball conversations, whether it be from breaking down hitters, what pitches, how to throw certain pitches, differences between certain guys, the season, a lot of things that he helped me out with. Getting to pick his brain is really, really fortunate for me."

Gray, who is nearing the 10-year service time milestone in the majors, will reach free agency for the first time at the end of the season. He hasn't ruled out returning to the Twins, but he wants to test free agency.

“I was definitely a Sonny Gray fan for a long time. Just getting to play with him and see why he's been so successful, it just makes sense. The first time you meet him and talk to him, it all comes together.”
Joe Ryan

If he pitches like he did in the first half of the season, the Twins will likely extend a one-year qualifying offer to him. If he declines the qualifying offer, which will be around $20 million, then the Twins would receive a top-40 pick in next year's draft if he signs elsewhere as a free agent.

"I mean, I'm excited about it," Gray said. "Whatever happens, who knows, but it's something I have wanted to experience. You get to come through your career and just have experiences. That is something I haven't experienced yet."

One of the special parts about returning to the All-Star Game, Gray said, is sharing this experience with his sons, Gunnar and Declan. "He brought them on the field for the Home Run Derby, so they could all watch Julio Rodríguez together.

"I told Julio, I saw him in the training room earlier, I've got an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old that are pulling for you," Gray said. "They are your biggest fans. They want you to hit one out of the stadium. ... I think he's currently their favorite player, which is awesome. A good role model for them to have."

After three trips to the All-Star Game, Gray hopes to be a good role model, too.