SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jon Gray has been an enigma since he was drafted in 2013. He was very quickly given the title of “ace of the young staff” and many times has lived up to that name, but at other times he has not. During his first full season in 2016, he set the Rockies franchise record of 16 strikeouts in a game. In 2017, he got rocked in his postseason debut. 2018 seemed to be a combination of the two – Gray seemingly racked up strikeouts and gave up runs at an almost equal rate.
So far in Spring Training, Gray has been pitching lights out. He has posted a 2.55 ERA in 17 ⅔ innings so far. So, what’s different?
“Everything.” Gray said, “I think just getting strong from the ground up, just making sure I have a solid foundation, and not feeling any points of weakness. I think that’s been a big key.
“I guess from like an emotional standpoint,” he continued, “I’m just too pissed off not to be good right now. I think that has a lot to do with it.”
All of that certainly seems to be helping, seeing as Gray has given up five earned runs on 11 hits and struck out 22 – each of these numbers point to the best statistical spring of his young career.
Jon Gray Career Spring Stats
While he is still relying on his fastball a little more than half the time, according to Brooks Baseball, he is also relying heavily on his curveball and slider.
“I feel like every pitch has gotten better, which is good because I don’t want to rely on just fastball/slider all the time.” Gray continued, “I feel like my curveball’s taken a step and even [my] changeup has gotten better this spring.
“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better at using it down and away to righties, down on the plate to lefties,” he said, “I feel like it’s a good strikeout pitch now.”
Gray might start one more game before the regular season starts, and he has one more goal. Gray struggled with men on base in 2018, and that’s something he wants to address this season.
“I do want to get better out of the stretch,” he said, “I feel like I’m a lot better of a pitcher out of the wind up than stretch so that’s something I need to work on. I never want to feel at a time of doubt when you have runners on base, so that’s something I want to get better at.”
In his last spring game against the Brewers on March 16th he pitched five innings, giving up two earned runs on four hits but he struck out eight. Five of those strikeouts came in the seven outs immediately following the two runs, which is something that Gray struggled to do last year.
Maybe struggling in 2018 helped Gray turn a corner, or maybe his new haircut has given him some extra confidence, but either way, hopefully whatever’s pissing off Jon Gray helps him bounce back in 2019.