Gray makes a strong impression in 1st All-Star experience

July 16th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato’s Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Josiah Gray arrived in Seattle having never been on an MLB All-Star team. By the time he left, he had made an impression on the NL squad.

“Everybody seems to like him,” said Giants right-hander Alex Cobb. “He’s so young, but he’s been in so many different clubhouses already.”

Gray, 25, was the only member of the Nationals to earn a selection to the All-Star Game this season. He was drafted by the Reds in 2018 and debuted with the Dodgers in ‘21 before being traded to the Nats that year, though, so he met with familiar faces at T-Mobile Park.

“I’m happy for him,” said Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw. “It’s really cool to see his development. I didn’t get to know [him] super well when he was with us, but he’s great. I really like talking to him -- nice guy, works really hard. He’s really developed a lot from even last year to what I’ve seen on TV this year. It’s really cool to see him get rewarded and be here.”

Gray garnered his first All-Star nod with a 3.41 ERA in the first half, including a 2.39 road ERA (second best in MLB). His reputation for being a hard worker in the offseason spoke for itself, too. Cobb had heard about Gray from a mutual connection at Driveline Baseball, who encouraged them to meet. They clicked quickly, became throwing partners and sat together during the Home Run Derby.

“We got here, and immediately he came up to me. We’ve been hitting it off ever since,” said Cobb. “... The first five throws we played catch. … I was like, ‘You’ve got pretty good [vertical break]?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah,’ because the first two balls almost hit off the top of my glove and hit me in the face, so I could tell immediately that his ball actually jumps out of his hand.”

Braves right-hander Spencer Strider had known of Gray as a divisional opponent, and he got to know him better as lockermates. He described Gray as a “very cool dude.”

“I didn’t know him prior to [the All-Star Game]. I’ve obviously seen him pitch a few times in person, and I’ve seen him pitch pretty well in person at the expense of my own team,” said Strider. “He’s got a very good pitch mix. The way he kind of sinks into that front leg gets a bit of an upshoot, kind of riding effect to his cutter and stuff, I think it’s a tough at-bat.”

At his first All-Star Game, Gray said he wanted to soak up the experience and not let it pass him by too fast. After achieving the feat in his third Major League season, Gray will continue to work toward earning another trip.

“He’s got a good opportunity with the Nationals,” said Kershaw. “I know it was probably hard for him to get traded, but ultimately, it’s going to work out better for him in the long run. He might be here for a lot of years, so it’s great.”