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No 'magic number' for Gray's innings limit

Rockies' No. 2 prospect held to 75 pitches in six-inning outing vs. Mets

NEW YORK -- The innings and pitches clock on Rockies prized righty callup Jon Gray is not a finite one, nor is it a public one, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said Tuesday.

In an earlier interview with the Denver Post, manager Walt Weiss said the team didn't want to go more than 20-25 percent beyond the 124 1/3 innings that Gray threw last season, when he spent his first full pro season at Double-A Tulsa. But Bridich said there is much more wiggle room than that with Gray, the Rockies' No. 2 prospect drafted third overall out of the University of Oklahoma in 2013.

"We're not talking about a magic number," Bridich said of Gray, whose combined total from Triple-A Albuquerque and the Majors matches last year's innings. "We're just going to be intelligent. The process started prior to him getting to the big league level. We're just going to continue to manage his workload."

Through his first two Major League outings, Gray threw 77 pitches and 75, so at least for now the mid 70s represent the in-game limit. But those outings were vastly different.

In his debut, at home against the Mariners, Gray threw 33 pitches in the first inning and lasted just four frames. On Monday against the Mets, Gray lasted six innings, displaying what Bridich called an "ease of operation," and left with a one-run lead in the Rockies' eventual 4-2 loss to the Mets.

The Mets came back against the Rockies' bullpen, but Weiss didn't regret pulling Gray.

With the Rockies in last place in the National League West, one game in August simply pales in importance to the effort to incorporate Gray to the Majors, while attempting to keep him healthy. After all, Gray was shut down last year before the Double-A playoffs because of right elbow fatigue. The plan is to have Gray be a key member of the rotation in 2016.

"We know going in that there are parameters, so because of that, it's not like it's a decision I'm wrestling with in the dugout during the game," Weiss said. "There's a little bit of wiggle room, but we don't lose sight of the big picture. That trumps everything else."

It's not as if the Rockies are pioneers in the limiting of young pitchers. In 2012, the Nationals, in a pennant race, shut down Stephen Strasburg -- who had dealt with Tommy John surgery -- at 159 1/3 innings. The Mets, leading the NL East, appear to be preserving righty Matt Harvey's innings during the regular season, but indications are they'll turn him loose if they qualify for the postseason.

Bridich explained that the pitch and innings controls on Gray are based on situations specific to Gray, with data collected over history, the consultation of coaches and medical personnel and how individual games are going.

It appears the Rockies want Gray to pitch through September, but Bridich didn't want to reveal much of the strategy. With an expanded roster, there could be more opportunities to rest Gray.

"There was a plan put in place as soon as July hit for him," Bridich said. "We'll continue with that plan. We don't plan on altering it, but if we have to make alterations, we can."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page.
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