Jon Gray was quickly becoming the Colorado Rockies’ ace early in his big league career.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 draft made his major league debut in 2015, and in 2017, he was starting the National League wild-card playoff game for Colorado.
Things started to go south for the hard-throwing right-hander in 2018, and he was left off the roster for the NL Division Series against Milwaukee. But last year he started turning things around before being shut down in late August with a stress fracture in his right foot.
Gray, 28, is ready to build on 2019 when he takes the mound against the Texas Rangers on Saturday night.
“I feel like everything’s starting to come together for me,” Gray said during the summer camp at Coors Field ahead of the start of the season. “It’s really exciting. It’s been a lot of hard work, too, but I got my body in the right place down the slope on the mound. I got the right mechanics going. It makes everything work really well. When my slider’s working well, I feel like I’m 10 feet tall.”
Texas took the first game of the series with a 1-0 victory on Friday night, which was the debut of the Rangers’ new stadium, Globe Life Field in Arlington.
Gray has faced the Rangers just once in his career, on Father’s Day in 2018. He was given a four-run lead but allowed six runs, five earned, over five innings in Texas that day in a game the Rangers won 13-12.
That was a lifetime ago for Gray, and Saturday is his chance for atonement in the new ballpark. He’ll face Rangers left-hander Mike Minor, who is in his third year with the organization. Minor set a career high in wins last season when he went 14-10 and was named to the AL All-Star team.
Minor, the Rangers’ Pitcher of the Year in 2019, has plenty of experience against Colorado from his days with Atlanta. The 32-year-old veteran has made seven career starts and two relief appearances against the Rockies and is 3-2 with a 5.24 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP.
Minor will try to match Lance Lynn’s nine-strikeout performance from Friday night and hold down Colorado’s potent offense, which includes perennial MVP candidate and Gold Glove third baseman Nolan Arenado.
Minor is headed to free agency in the offseason but is focused on the shortened season right now.
“Nothing’s changed,” he said earlier this week. “I would love to come back, but that’s not my choice. I haven’t been given any type of extension opportunity. I’m just going to go out there and pitch and compete. I think that’s what I’ve been missing the most over the quarantine.
“I want to get back and compete. I want to get back with the guys. I feel like a lot of guys play this game to compete and try to be their best. Whatever happens at the end of the year, that’s what happens. I can’t really worry about it.”
–Field Level Media