PHOENIX -- Rockies right-hander Jon Gray looked and felt lost on Monday in Los Angeles -- the last time he pitched.But Saturday, after a brief but lively bullpen session, Gray felt himself again. We'll see come Tuesday night, when he rejoins the rotation to start against the Phillies for the
PHOENIX -- Rockies right-hander Jon Gray looked and felt lost on Monday in Los Angeles -- the last time he pitched.
But Saturday, after a brief but lively bullpen session, Gray felt himself again. We'll see come Tuesday night, when he rejoins the rotation to start against the Phillies for the second game of what figures to be a huge homestand.
Interestingly, the process of regaining his identity began with photographs.
"Last night, I was looking at some pictures of me in college, and I was like this," said a smiling, bright-eyed Gray, pantomiming the balance point of his delivery, when the left leg is up and he's ready to uncoil his delivery to the plate. "I was over the mound, poised and looked freakin' aggressive. And I was like, 'You know what? I gotta start throwing like that.'"
On Saturday, Gray threw 15-20 pitches in what can best be described as a fastbreak session. Instead of getting a sign from the catcher, deliberating about this mechanic or that, he would hear a coach call out a pitch, take a deep breath, then throw. Without the intrusive act of thinking, he felt his old athletic ability return.
"I'm in the moment again, things are moving in one piece and I'm not trying to make something happen," Gray said. "It feels so good. That's the old me, the aggressive me. They had a stopwatch on my delivery, and everything was on the freakin' dot. Everything was the same. I haven't had that all year."
Of course, we have heard and seen this before. Problem is, it has come and gone. Through 17 inconsistent starts, Gray was 7-7 with a 5.77 ERA, and struggling with location and confidence, so the Rockies sent him down to Triple-A Albuquerque for two starts. He returned July 14 and went 4-0 with a 3.08 ERA over his next nine starts; all but one were Rockies wins.
But in his last three starts, he didn't pitch beyond four innings. After he gave up six runs and seven hits in two-plus innings -- with four runs, five hits and no outs in the third inning -- in an 8-2 loss to the Dodgers on Monday, the Rockies skipped him this week to try to bring back the old feeling.
Gray admitted disappointment for letting the team down at such a key moment.
"It was a bad time," he said.
But he shortly began to get back to making corrections and thinking aggressively.
Manager Bud Black said had multiple conversations with Gray on mechanical, mental and strategic issues he had seen.
"Let's do it," Black said. "I'm in. Let's go down that path, that we're going to see the Jon Gray that we know is in there."
For the four games against the Phillies, the Rockies will start lefty Tyler Anderson (6-9, 4.76 ERA) on Monday night, followed by Gray (11-8, 5.07 ERA), righty German Marquez (13-10, 3.91) and righty Antonio Senzatela, who started Saturday night's game against the D-backs.
Story taking full swings
Shortstop Trevor Story, who suffered a right elbow injury in the game Gray pitched in Los Angeles, took batting practice for the first time on Saturday. There were several hard-hit balls to center and the opposite way. He also hit off a hard-throwing pitching machine.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.