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Breaking down Jon Gray's debut

The right hander made his Major League debut on Tuesday evening. What can he do to become a better pitcher now that he's in the big leagues?

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Gray pitched 4.0 innings, giving up three runs, though only two were earned. He threw a total of 77 pitches to 19 batters—something that doesn't seem too surprising with the way he was pitching.

Gray threw about 56 percent of his pitches, 43 out of 77, for strikes. Twenty one of those strikes were due to contact, which is 27 percent of strikes thrown. Sixteen percent of the strikes, 12 of 43, were called. The remaining ten strikes were from whiffs and foul balls.

In the first inning, I noticed that Gray was throwing his fastball high and away to hitters, possibly trying to get them to chase the high fastball. Siting at 94-95 MPH in the first, Gray seemed to be chasing the strikeout, which led to walking Kyle Seager. Gray's fastball is very deceptive, however. There's a late break to it and can fool a lot of hitters, which is likely what he was going for.

With Nelson Cruz batting in the first, Gray started mixing in the slider, which he threw in and down to left-handed hitters. Mixing in the slider is a valuable asset, especially with a slider that can top out at 89 MPH. Keeping the ball down and making sure it doesn't turn into a wild pitch is key, as it can lead to swinging strikes or ground ball outs. Of the 12 outs Gray recorded, five were grounders, four were strikeouts, and the rest were in the air.

Gray, hung a slider to Jesus Montero, who knocked it for an RBI single. So, very clearly, Gray is human and can hang a slider here and there. Again, if he can just keep the ball down and get the ground outs, it could be the basis for success at Coors Field.

Base hits are going to happen. It's Coors and base hits are to be expected. Even with a good infield defense behind him, Gray is bound to give up a couple of hits here and there. Ultimately, five hits in four innings is pretty decent for a debut.

Gray labored through his first inning in the bigs. Those can certainly bring jitters to any pitcher who is good enough to make it, and that may have been the case for Gray. Throwing 36 pitches can take a lot out of a pitcher, but he bounced back after that and finished on a stronger note than he started on.Gray settled down for a quick 1-2-3 second inning and threw a 19-pitch third and a 13-pitch fourth before departing the game.

It's too early to tell what kind of career Gray will have with the Rockies. Seeing what he can do with the fastball/slider/changeup combo in such a hitter-friendly park for the rest of the season will mostly be so that he can adjust and make adjustments as necessary. It's not a bad thing. In fact, it's something that will help him for the future.