Jon Gray Reflects On 11-Strikeout Performance

May 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jon Gray (55) pitches during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
May 2, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jon Gray (55) pitches during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

The day after the finest performance of his Major League career, Jon Gray quietly sat at his locker inside Petco Park. Flipping through his phone, there were no doubt reminders of the night that was … and also what could’ve been.

Gray struck out a career-high 11 batters in six innings in an 89-pitch masterpiece that was only tarnished by some first-inning miscues. Those problems, however, were enough for the San Diego Padres to pin a 2-1 decision on the Colorado Rockies and once again keep Gray from grabbing his inaugural MLB win.

It was the second time in three starts that Gray had set a new career-high in strikeouts, besting the 10 Los Angeles Dodgers he fanned in his season debut on April 22 at Coors Field. Still, after 12 starts, Gray has yet to grab his first win.

Call it bad luck. Call it unfortunate. Call it what you will, but Gray calls it in the past. Less than 24 hours after the impressive yet frustrating outing, Gray was focused on the future.

“It’s easy to move ahead if you’re not bothered too much about the negative things,” the soft-spoken Gray said. “I pick out what I need to take away from the start and start working on it the day after my throwing program. I have to make sure everything is good health-wise and then really attack what I need to do every day in the throwing program.”

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The scenario on Monday night was unfortunately the same as it had been in Gray’s two previous starts. Trouble in the first inning spelled trouble for the end result. Gray now has a 15.00 first-inning ERA this season, but he said Monday felt different.

“It felt good to actually bounce back and feel like I had all of my teammates behind me,” Gray said of his stretch of retiring 16 consecutive batters after the first four of the game reached base. “They were like, ‘OK, let’s go’ and not like ‘OK, here we go again’ with the bad start and all of that stuff. I could see it in their body language that they were ready to go. We were playing and flying through innings. It was fun.”

But it wasn’t just the support of his teammates that was different. It was also the command he had of all of his pitches.

“Personally, I thought throwing every pitch for a strike was good,” Gray said. “Curveball for strikes. Changeup for strikes. A lot of sliders and fastballs. It was really good to be able to mix all of those different speeds and movements. I’m proud about that.

“That was probably the best secondary command I’ve had. Fastball command was a little shaky at first. One thing I’m looking forward to in this next start is being able to do that from the first inning on. Find that rhythm from the first inning on and be able to throw the pitches where I want to.”

Colorado manager Walt Weiss liked what he saw from Gray on Monday night and what he sees in his 24-year-old right-hander moving forward.

“He’s always shown pretty good fastball command to go along with that power,” Weiss said. “He has the ability to pitch to both sides of the plate. I thought his command was good last night. Fastball was very explosive. When he has his good slider, he’s going to miss a lot of bats and get a lot of funny swings.”

Monday night was a great outing for Jon Gray, but he’s very clear that that is in the past. The next start is really the most important thing in his mind. He’s already analyzed the video and taken notes to get ready for the next time he takes the mound.

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“I look at the things I can improve upon,” Gray explained. “There are some things I can remember but it’s also trying to remember what it was that made you good. Trying to remember the feeling and how it felt with delivery and direction and release of the ball. It’s more of a feel thing. The day after, it’s building up for the next one. It’s looking on. I also don’t want to linger around too much about yesterday. I just want to move on and focus on the next couple of starts.”