Jon Gray on Staying in Sync and Throwing High Heat at Coors

Jon Gray had one of his best starts of the season on Sunday. The Colorado Rockies right-hander fanned 12 while limiting the Padres to two runs over seven innings. It was his third straight solid outing following a a nine-run dud against the Cardinals on May 19.

A few days after his St. Louis shelling, the 24-year-old University of Oklahoma product threw a pre-game bullpen session at Fenway Park. On his way back to the clubhouse, he stopped in the outfield grass and conferred with his pitching coach, occasionally mimicking his pitching motion.

After the confab concluded, I approached him to ask what they’d been working on. I had other questions in mind as well. I’d interviewed Gray a few months after he was taken third overall in the 2013 draft, and a lot of development had occurred since that time. A follow-up was in order.


Gray on his development and needing to stay in sync: “There’s a lot more to this game than it might seem. You’re constantly making adjustments in order to compete. I’ve done a lot of things with my delivery, as well as mentally. You have to make adjustments a lot faster at this level. If I know something isn’t right in my delivery, I have to change it as soon as possible, otherwise it’s going to get bad. Same thing mentally. I have to really keep tabs on myself, with each pitch, each approach.

“I was out of sync today in my bullpen. (Catcher Nick) Hundley noticed it right away and let me know seven or eight pitches in. From there, we got me back where I was supposed to be. Staying in my delivery has been (an issue) at times.

“My last game was bad. Everything was really rotational. All of my misses were left and right. I couldn’t pinpoint anything. Nothing had an angle on it, so everything was easy to hit; every ball I threw in the zone got hit. That’s one thing Hundley pointed out. He said, ‘If you keep your front side in line without swinging open, that’s not going to happen.’

“If a fastball has angle, it’s a lot harder to hit than a fastball that’s kind of straight. There’s a lot of error there. You have to hit it just right to put a barrel on it. Same with the slider. The slider didn’t have depth last game. It was right to left. Same thing with the curveball.”

On what causes him to get out of sync with his delivery: “I don’t know why it happens to me, but it happens quite a bit. I do know that the better I get at recognizing it, the better I’ll be able to fix it and not have to worry about it as much.

“I’ve made some adjustments. I started throwing a two-seam sinker three weeks ago and I have a whole new thought process with that — what I think about before I throw it. Even curveballs. It’s the first I’ve thrown it this year. There are some things I have to remind myself there. I can’t let it take away from fastball-slider. I think I’m getting better at it, but I still have a long way to go.”

On adding a two-seam fastball and going from changeup to curveball: “I really wanted something that was moving arm side. If you have a fastball that’s straight, and a slider and a curveball, everything is moving in one direction. A two-seamer helped in that respect. If you can get eyes moving in and out, it’s a lot harder to hit.

“I had a good changeup in Double-A. It was really good. It was way better than my slider. But when I developed a good changeup, my slider got really bad. I didn’t really have it at all, in Double-A Tulsa. I was able to get my slider back, but that made my changeup a little harder to feel.

“I think the curveball is a better separation pitch for me than the changeup. I think it has a better chance to miss bats, because it has a lot more movement. My curveball is more of a finesse thing, but it’s still been a huge weapon the last couple of weeks. I can steal strikes with it and dip it on the plate.”

“I tried just about every changeup grip there is: circles, two-seams, the vulcan thing; I even threw a splitter. Maybe I’ll have it this year, or maybe next year. But at this point, I’m really just focusing on the three pitches.”

On changing eye levels and high fastballs at Coors Field: “Personally, I think changing eye levels is big. People preach pitching at the knees, but there are a lot of good low-ball hitters in the game right now. If you stay down there, it’s easy for them to see. If you change their eye levels, you can go back down there and it’s a lot harder for them to see.

“Pitching at Coors, you can’t afford to stay down. You have to be able to pitch up. It’s a lot harder to hit 96-97 at your eyes, and it’s even tougher to get to that pitch when you’re mixing sliders down and away. You can’t just try to get ground balls if you want to be effective there. You have to miss bats.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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7 years ago

Hope it works out for him. Coors is one hell of a tough place to pitch and it messes with your mind. Would be great to see another SP succeed there. He could win a hell of a lot of games with that offense.