At the time, there was nothing funny about it. Now, looking back, Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jon Gray can at least crack a smile about a painful series of events.
Sitting inside the Colorado Rockies clubhouse with his left leg propped up and wrapped up, Jon Gray talked on Friday about the disappointing end to his season as well as what he hoped to accomplish as he plans to come back better and stronger in 2020.
Placed on the injured list on August 21 with a left foot fracture that required surgery and ended his season at 11-8 with a 3.84 ERA in 26 games (25 starts), Gray is one of 13 Colorado pitchers to land on the injured list at some point during the 2019 season. As I type this, all five Opening Week starters (including Gray) are on the IL.
For now, though, let’s flash back to the fourth inning of Colorado’s 9-3 road loss to the San Diego Padres on August 8. At the plate, Gray grounds into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. As he’s running to first base, he appears to do something to his ankle or foot, hobbling down the line.
At the time, I tweeted about it as Gray seemed to bounce back quickly from the potential injury. I also asked him after the game about his ankle/foot and if he had hurt it at the time. After he told me he didn’t think it was a big deal, he joked that he actually thought it helped him pitch better.
On Friday, I asked him about those moments in San Diego again.
“That’s when I first noticed it, was running to first,” Gray told me in an exclusive chat. “It was like, ‘OK, this feels similar to 2017. That’s not right.'”
The 2017 to which Gray is referring is a left foot navicular stress fracture suffered in a game against the San Francisco Giants that landed him on the injured list on April 14 of that season. He wouldn’t return to the mound for the Rockies until June 30.
“It wasn’t so bothersome that I couldn’t play,” Gray told me. “It was really sore. Scared me a little bit but it didn’t stop me from playing. The only worry I had was if I was going to move fast, like running, it would have been painful. I just told myself to stay calm, pitch and don’t try to do too much.
“It was strange.”
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During that same game, Gray also slipped on the dugout steps, causing some worry that his right ankle might be affected. Compound that with a right calf injury suffered two weeks before in Washington after being hit by a comebacker and fouling a ball off his foot in an August 3 home start against the Giants.
After assuring me the foul ball had nothing to do with his fracture, Gray joked with me about how bruised his feet and legs were during that time. However, despite the not-so-pretty looks of his lower legs, there was plenty of beauty on the mound for the 27-year-old right-hander during that stretch.
Starting with that outing in Washington, in Gray’s final five starts of the season, he posted a 2.77 ERA with 26 strikeouts (versus just 11 walks) in 29.2 innings pitched. His final start of the year was an eight-inning masterpiece at Coors Field against Miami as he scattered five hits.
Then came the shocking news on August 21 that Gray was done for the season.