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Rockies' Gray working 'toward developing a full arsenal'

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jon Gray is instantly recognizable by the long, blond wild hair that flows when he pitches for the Rockies. Now he has added the beginnings of a beard. It's a spring of new looks.

"I'm just letting everything grow," Gray said.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Jon Gray is instantly recognizable by the long, blond wild hair that flows when he pitches for the Rockies. Now he has added the beginnings of a beard. It's a spring of new looks.

"I'm just letting everything grow," Gray said.

The right-handed Gray demonstrated professional growth during his three scoreless innings against Team Puerto Rico in the Rockies' 10-2 victory in an exhibition game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick as Puerto Rico prepares for the World Baseball Classic. He used his curveball -- rather than his slider -- to complete his two strikeouts. He also continued his improvement at handling the running game with a pickoff of Angel Pagan, who singled to open the game.

Gray was more excited than he typically would be on March 9, while facing a star-studded Puerto Rico lineup. But he tramped down the excitement and continued working on the tools and strategies that, he and the Rockies hope, make him a pitching standout for a team that hasn't had many as it heads into its quarter-century season.

"I know there's not a ton of mistakes you can make facing a lineup like that, but just focus on the pitch, each time, execute each pitch, move on to the next and don't linger with your thoughts on the one before," Gray said.

But hitters may have let that curve enter their thoughts. Gray, the No. 3 overall pick out of the University of Oklahoma in 2013, didn't have one in his arsenal until after his 2015 trial (0-2, 5.53 ERA in nine starts). Last season, he used it as a change-of-pace while going 10-10, 4.61 in 29 starts while setting the Rockies' rookie record with 185 strikeouts.

But this spring, the curve has become more prominent.

"I find more stuff out about myself with these games," Gray said. "I found out that the curveball is going to be a weapon.

"I'm making good strides toward developing a full arsenal, but there are still some things I need to do as well -- my slider and my changeup."

The pickoff and a couple other successes with men on base are indications that Gray may no longer struggle at controlling the running game, the way he did when he first made the Majors.

"I've been put in tough situations with runners on, early, and I think it's great to be in that spot," said Gray. "That's what I need to work on. I need to be put in an uncomfortable spot right now."

Worth noting

Chris Denorfia, a veteran non-roster invitee who is in line for a reserve outfield spot, had a second sparkling catch -- against the right-field wall on a Carlos Beltran near-homer. "The strength of 'Deno' is the overall game -- defense, throws well, there's a stolen base in there, he gives you a tough at-bat," manager Bud Black said.

 • Righty Jeff Hoffman gave up two runs, one on Yadier Molina's homer, on four hits and a walk in three innings. Hoffman fanned two. "Jeff hung in there -- he was OK," Black said. "He's showing some growth through this spring. Can't deny the stuff."

 • Raimel Tapia, the No. 90 overall prospect according to MLB.com, erased Francisco Lindor at the plate in the sixth on a throw that Statcast™ measured at 98.7 mph.

 • Righty Rayan Gonzalez, who is on the list of possible pitchers for Puerto Rico, fanned two and gave up a harmless hit in the ninth. "We all were waiting for that moment -- we like him," Puerto Rico manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "Hopefully, at some point in the tournament, he can be with us." 

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Jon Gray