Jon Gray stood at his locker on Monday after the Colorado Rockies’ 4-2 win over the Chicago Cubs in Scottsdale, Ariz. Even though his team had won, the two runs the Cubs scored came at Gray’s expense, both on deep solo home runs. It was by far not the sharpest Gray has looked in an outing, but it was also one of the first times Gray had put on public display his work on a new pitch.
Gray came into MLB last season with a lot of expectations, including a fastball that was supposed to be a key piece toward his place as a part of Colorado’s bright future on the mound. There were times that it worked (striking out 40 in 40.2 innings pitched), but Gray still struggled in his first nine MLB starts, compiling a 5.53 ERA and giving up 52 hits.
Heading into this season, the right-hander is working on a curveball and hoping it will become a part of his arsenal. On Monday, though, the curveball was still very much a work in progress.
“It’s a feel pitch. I’ve never thrown a feel pitch before,” he said. “I’m just disappointed in how slow it’s taking to learn it and use it as a strike pitch.”
Gray threw 49 pitches on Monday, with 26 going for strikes. Many of those pitches outside the strike zone were Gray’s attempt to work on his curve. When the curve didn’t work, Cubs batters sat back and waited on Gray’s fastball … and two of them went over the fence.
“I think I threw two strikes today in maybe eight times I threw it,” Gray said. “That’s got to improve a lot, or I won’t be able to use it. I can bury it. I can throw it in the dirt,” he said. “But when I try to throw it for a strike, it’s just popping out.”
Colorado manager Walt Weiss knows Gray is struggling with the pitch but insists it will be a part of his repertoire this season.
“It’s going to be a pitch he uses in games,” Weiss said. “It’s a matter of how much he’ll use it and when.”
Gray was visibly frustrated by the control problems with his curveball on Monday, but is hoping the work he puts in now will pay off later in the season at Coors Field.
“It’s tough, honestly. I’m a competitor but I see the bigger picture,” Gray said “I’m never going to be able to know how it’s going to work unless I use it in a game. That’s what I’m focusing on. I’m not really upset with it, but I am at the same time. I got a lot of feedback today, so I’m going to take it into the bullpen.
“I’ll never know if it works unless I throw it in a game. That’s what I’m focusing on. I’m not really too upset at it … but I am at the same time.”