Jon Gray gets Opening Day nod for Rangers

March 29th, 2022

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Manager Chris Woodward announced Jon Gray will start for the Rangers on Opening Day against the Blue Jays in Toronto on Friday, April 8.

The right-hander made back-to-back Opening Day starts for the Rockies in 2017-18, picking up a loss and a no-decision. He spent his entire career in Colorado after being selected third overall in the 2013 MLB Draft out of the University of Oklahoma.

“It's really important for the organization because we signed him for that reason,” Woodward said. “We knew when we signed him that he was going to be our No. 1. I knew that, he knew that. He's good. He's an elite pitcher. He's had a ton of success in the big leagues. And I just think with where he's at right now, there's another level to him and he believes that. He can't wait to get to that.”

Gray, who was the club’s big offseason pitching signing, was expected to be the Opening Day starter. But now it’s official. And while he has been in this position before, he said it felt different this time.

“I don't know if it’s because I haven't done it in a couple years now, but just the amount of confidence this team has in me, it's a good spot to be in,” Gray said. “I know we're kind of young as a staff but it's really cool to get that spot and really start to set the tone… It's really cool that they want to put me up there Game 1 and know that you know that we really want to win that one.”

Gray has only made one main game appearance this spring, allowing one run on four hits in two innings of work against the A’s.

Gray made 29 starts last year with Colorado and finished with a 4.59 ERA, but the underlying Statcast data shows that the righty was generally better than what his numbers indicated. He produced a .236 opponents’ xBA, which tied for the lowest mark of his career and was better than league average.

He’s expected to thrive away from Coors Field in a more pitcher-friendly park like Globe Life Field. Throughout the spring, he’s been working on a new slider grip that will allow for more horizontal movement and can be utilized as a wipeout pitch.

The Rangers have succeeded recently in turning around and elevating the careers of veteran pitchers like Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson. Gray said that didn’t have an influence on his decision to come to Texas, but he saw the upward trajectory of the club and wanted to be a part of it.

Gray will now headline a rotation that likely includes Martín Pérez, ,  and a yet-to-be-determined fifth starter. As one of the most veteran pitchers on staff, he has also taken on a leadership role within the clubhouse.

“I think they’re all going to lead in their own ways,” Woodward said. “[Gray] will definitely be part of our leadership group, but I’m not going to ask him to stand up in front of the group and give team speeches. He's going to lead by example. He's going to lead by sharing his experiences and things that have happened to him and his career adjustments that he's had to make over the years.”