Take heart, Colorado Rockies fans. You’re not the only ones frustrated with the pitch count imposed on Jon Gray by Rockies management. The rookie pitcher sympathizes and wishes he could do more.
Leading 3-1 against the San Diego Padres on Saturday night, Gray was lifted after five innings and 69 pitches thrown. In his third Major League start, Gray notched his second consecutive start of allowing just one run. On this night against the Padres, Gray allowed just four hits and struck out five and didn’t issue a walk.
When Gray left the game, Colorado’s pitching fortunes changed dramatically as the much-maligned bullpen surrendered six runs, including three in the ninth, as San Diego grabbed a 7-5 victory.
Perhaps most impressive about Gray’s outing against San Diego was the fact that the first two Padres batters singled, including leadoff batter Yangervis Solarte who would eventually score in the inning on Matt Kemp’s sacrifice fly. After that, however, San Diego would register just two hits against the Rockies right-hander.
“They came out aggressive and ready to hit his fastball,” Colorado manager Walt Weiss said of San Diego’s early singles. “He then started mixing in his secondary stuff, which was real good. He gave up a run early and then he was in complete control.”
Colorado catcher Nick Hundley was also impressed by what he saw from Gray on Saturday night.
“He wasn’t as crisp early but he was lights out the next four innings,” Hundley said. “His two hits in the first inning a guy swung at a first-pitch fastball and the next guy hit a seeing-eye single. He settled in well after that. At this level, the mental makeup is as important as the physical stuff. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen from him.”
Of course, after so much excitement about him finally receiving his chance to pitch in the pros, everyone wants to see more from Gray … including Gray himself.
“I was sure I would pitch one more (inning), so I was ready to go. It was a bit of a surprise,” Gray said in the Colorado locker room Saturday night. “I understand, so I wouldn’t say I am complaining or anything, but the competitive side of me wants to go out there and finish.”
Still, Gray was pleased with his performance.
“I was really happy,” Gray said. “I knew starting out I didn’t have good stuff. Early on, they were swinging at the first pitch so I started mixing in my secondary stuff. I started feeling more comfortable in the strike zone and that gives you even more confidence with your fastball.”
So will we see a longer performance from Gray in his next start?
“It’s not an option for him to go deeper in his next start,” Weiss said matter-of-factly.
It’s understandable that the Rockies are being careful with a pitcher who they view as one of the cornerstones of their future rotation. It’s also understandable why Gray and Colorado fans are anxious for the day to come when the restrictions are lifted.