Colorado Rockies morning after: Jon Gray strong against Rangers

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27: Jon Gray #55 of the Colorado Rockies delivers a first inning pitch against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during a Spring Training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 27, 2018 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27: Jon Gray #55 of the Colorado Rockies delivers a first inning pitch against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during a Spring Training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 27, 2018 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
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In the balance between getting excited about spring training statistics and knowing we are still in spring training … but inching ever closer to Opening Day, Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jon Gray gave Rockies fans everywhere something to be excited about on Monday night.

Facing Texas in what will likely be his next-to-last spring outing, Gray struck out nine Rangers in 6.1 innings while allowing just four hits and walking just one batter as the Rockies rolled to a 5-1 decision in Surprise, Ariz.

Gray is on track to be Colorado’s Opening Day starter when the Rockies start the 2018 season at Chase Field against the Arizona Diamondbacks. What we saw from the 26-year-old right-hander on Monday night was much different than Gray’s previous spring outings.

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Gray entered Monday night with an 0-2 record and 10.22 ERA in four previous starts. However, as I personally saw during one of Gray’s start, the University of Oklahoma product was using spring training as a way of experimenting, including with his changeup grip and rotation on the mound. He talked to me about that for this article.

Whatever Gray was toying with before Monday night, he looked like the ace against the Rangers that Rockies fans are hoping to see in 2018. Dominating with the fastball and slider, Gray had his way on the mound with Texas, keeping the Rangers off-balance often with a mix of pitches.

Yes, it’s spring training. Yes, it’s another start on the road to the regular season. However, Gray gave Rockies fans everywhere a boost of confidence on Monday night.

Almonte likely to start season at Triple-A

Speaking of pitching, the Rockies officially sent Yency Almonte to minor league camp on Monday. He’s expected to start the season at Triple-A and could well make his Major League debut sometime early in the 2018 season.

Almonte impressed Rockies coaches during spring training but also struggled at times. He finished spring training with a 7.82 ERA and gave up 15 hits in 12.2 innings. He also struck out 14.

Next: Looking at potential roster decisions the Rockies will face before Opening Day

However, the 23-year-old Almonte has the tools needed to succeed at the Major League level. Having made the jump last year between Double-A Hartford to Triple-A Albuquerque and showing well at both levels, Almonte made an impact for the Rockies this spring. Check out my exclusive chat with him from earlier in spring training.

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