Jon Gray has a number in his mind for 2018 and that number is 200. That’s the number of innings Gray wants to pitch in 2018 as he attempts to make the leap from good pitcher to dominant ace.
Health issues kept him from making a serious run at the 200-inning plateau last season. Gray pitched 110 innings last year, roughly half of what he’s striving for this year. He finished 10-4 with a 3.67 ERA. Gray dealt with a stress-fracture in his left-foot in 2017, sidelining him for the entire month of May and costing him at least 10 starts.
“I just want to eat a lot of innings, I want to throw 200 innings,” said Gray, who knows he has to stay healthy in order to do that.
“[I want to] stay healthy all year long to make that happen. Continue to be a dominant guy that guys don’t want to face, even at Coors [Field.]”
Gray also spoke about remaining a student of the game, learning as he progresses through his fourth year as a starter at the major-league level. Rockies Manager Bud Black is keeping him focused on that.
“He really wants me to keep me as a student of the game and learn,” Gray said. “I know that’s what’s best for me. He’s got us on the right page; he’s wants us learning. he comes into his own dugout when there’s certain situations, and he wants us to be aware of things and get better.”
Gray also says last year he felt like he still had to prove himself. Now, he knows his role and knows what he has to be better in 2018.
“Last year, I felt like I had to go out and prove something to ensure my spot on the team. This year, I know what my role is.”
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, Gray has been long touted as the potential “ace” the Rockies have lacked throughout the club’s history. Gray, however, isn’t feeling that pressure.
“Not really,” he said. “We’re loaded with a lot of talented young arms. We have such much depth right now, I feel like anybody can go up and do a great job, just like last year.”
A Rockies pitcher has reached the 200-inning mark on 15 different occasions; however, Ubaldo Jimenez was the last to do so all the way back in 2010.
If the Rockies have desires of contending in 2018 and beyond, they must find a workhorse to anchor the starters. The two top teams in the NL West push out true aces every five starts in Zack Greinke in Arizona and Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles, and even the San Francisco Giants have a 200-inning pitcher in 2017 in Jeff Samardzija.
The Rockies will need to fight fire with fire if they want a shot at their first division title in franchise history. Gray hopes to achieve that for the Rockies in 2018.