Flash back to mid-April if you will. Jon Gray, one of the key pieces of the Colorado Rockies rotation, goes on the disabled list with a fracture in his left foot in his third start of the season.
At the moment, the situation seemed dire for the Rockies. Little did Gray or any of us that when he returned to the rotation more than two months later, Colorado would hold one of the best records in the National League.
When Gray’s injury occurred in San Francisco, it seemed that the 25-year-old right-hander might miss some of the key moments of Colorado’s season. As it turns out, Gray is positioned for a September with a fresher arm just when Colorado needs it the most.
Looking back, Gray can smile about what can be called a “blessing in disguise” during an exclusive interview with Rox Pile during the recent series against the Detroit Tigers at Coors Field.
"“Yeah, that’s what I call it,” Gray chuckled. “My arm is feeling great. My body is feeling better. I feel like I’m just now starting to get into my high pitch performance.”"
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With the Rockies fighting to hold off Milwaukee and other teams for a Wild Card bid, and with the Arizona Diamondbacks coming to Denver for a key three-game series this weekend, Gray knows the tough task ahead for him and his teammates. He also knows when he steps on the mound on Saturday at Coors Field, the stakes will be high.
"“It makes it more serious for me. It’s going to be important,” Gray said. “I just kind of put it (the playoff race) out of my mind. I focus on pitch to pitch. I know what I have to do and how important it is in the back of my mind. It’s a matter of taking care of business.”"
Gray has been taking care of business over the last month. After a July where he struggled to a 2-2 mark and 6.66 ERA, the former third overall pick in the 2013 draft found his rhythm in August.
In five August starts, Gray posted a 3-1 mark and 2.30 ERA. He also struck out 27 batters for the second consecutive month, giving him 54 punchouts in his last 57 innings. That includes 19 in his last three starts covering 18.2 frames.
The former University of Oklahoma pitcher credits a mixture of pitches working in a mixture of locations. He also believes even better things are to come.
"“We’ve been mixing a lot of breaking balls in. Expanding with the heater and not throwing it in the middle. Really being careful with the zone and attacking the outside,” Gray said. “I think it’s only going to get better from here. I think the slider is going to get better in these next few games. I think it’s all coming together as one. I’m even throwing some good changeups lately, so a lot of good things to look at.”"
Gray will likely draw five starts in the month of September (and the final regular-season game against the Dodgers on October 1), a stretch where the Rockies play just three of their 29 remaining games against squads not from within their division. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, Gray said as he sees Colorado’s most critical month intersecting with his improving health and performance.
"“It couldn’t be any better for me. I’m starting to feel better and better, every day and every time out. It’s right whenever we need it,” Gray said."