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Rockies send struggling Gray to Triple-A

Tapia called up as corresponding move; No. 3 prospect Lambert promoted to Albuquerque
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

LOS ANGELES -- After starting on Opening Day the last two years as well as the National League Wild Card Game last year, right-hander Jon Gray will make his next starts at Triple-A Albuquerque.

The Rockies optioned Gray (7-7, 5.77 ERA) on Saturday to address the inconsistencies that have led to some expected highs and frustrating lows. For example, in 92 innings pitched, Gray has given up an NL-high 108 hits; however, he's also second in strikeouts per nine innings at 11.64, and fourth in strikeouts with 119.

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LOS ANGELES -- After starting on Opening Day the last two years as well as the National League Wild Card Game last year, right-hander Jon Gray will make his next starts at Triple-A Albuquerque.

The Rockies optioned Gray (7-7, 5.77 ERA) on Saturday to address the inconsistencies that have led to some expected highs and frustrating lows. For example, in 92 innings pitched, Gray has given up an NL-high 108 hits; however, he's also second in strikeouts per nine innings at 11.64, and fourth in strikeouts with 119.

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While Gray has the high strikeout total, those aren't present in tight situations. According to Baseball Reference, he has 6.38 strikeouts for every walk in low-leverage situations, but that figure drops to 4.75 in medium-leverage situations and 1.22 in high-leverage situations.

"This was the right time to get Jon to Triple-A to work on some things -- not so much mechanically but mentally -- and to realize the inconsistencies that have been happening this season, that we've gotta try to get those straightened out," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "As much as we wanted those to happen at the big league level, we felt as though, at this time, it was best for him to work out some of these things in the Minor Leagues."

To correspond with the Gray move and the fallout:

• The Rockies recalled outfielder Raimel Tapia, who has batted .308 with 10 home runs, 48 RBIs and 18 stolen bases for Albuquerque. It is his first callup to the Majors this season -- after making the trip up six times last year -- as he battles for a permanent spot in a crowded outfield.

• Gray's next turn is Tuesday at home against the Giants, and the Rockies haven't announced who will start. However, it lines up for second-year righty Antonio Senzatela, 23, who began the year in the Rockies' bullpen but was optioned to Albuquerque on May 4 to build a starter-level pitch count. Senzatela's program was interrupted twice by mild right groin strains, but on Thursday he threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings with three hits and four strikeouts against Salt Lake.

• The Rockies also promoted righty Peter Lambert, 21, their No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, from Double-A Hartford -- where he earned Eastern League All-Star designation by going 8-2 with a 2.23 ERA -- to Albuquerque. Lambert was drafted in the second round, 44th overall, in 2015 out of San Dimas (Calif.) High School.

Gray's final start -- Thursday's eventual 9-8 victory over the Giants -- forced the decision.

After giving up a Brandon Belt two-run homer in the first inning, Gray settled down until the Rockies built a 5-2 lead in the top of the fourth. But Gray walked Andrew McCutchen to start the bottom of the inning, and by the time the frame ended, the game was tied.

Video: COL@SF: Gray strikes out Hanson to end the 4th

Gray worked with Rockies coaches on his stride and on pulling the ball out of his glove on time to make sure his delivery was coordinated. But Black said the mechanics are not the issue.

"I'm not so sure he was in a good spot when he was out on the mound, pitch to pitch, inning to inning, as far as his confidence to make pitches," Black said. "We've got to get him to that point.

"When there have been some baserunners, when there have been some crisis points in a game, we've seen some inconsistency in his ability to work through that trouble. We've seen a few times where we've needed him to get through an inning or two, and he just couldn't get there."

Video: PHI@COL: Tapia swipes second base in the 7th

Tapia, 24, has hit .283 with two home runs, 12 doubles, two triples and eight stolen bases over intermittent Major League opportunities the past two seasons. Possessing solid bat-to-ball skills and elite speed, Tapia has spent the season making some batting adjustments and working on fundamentals in all three outfield positions.

The left-handed-hitting Tapia said he has less of a crouched stance, which allows him to recognize pitches better and unleash a stronger swing. He said he is approaching this promotion "with the mentality of I'm going to stay here … stay positive and one day, I'm going to stay."

Dahl progressing
Left-handed hitting outfielder David Dahl, who was batting .275 with four home runs and 13 RBIs when he sustained a broken right foot on May 30, is out of the walking boot and is progressing. Black said Dahl most likely will be rehabbing at Coors Field in about a week and a half.

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

Colorado Rockies, Jon Gray, Raimel Tapia