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BSN Exclusive: The major adjustment Jon Gray made to his most important pitch

Drew Creasman Avatar
September 26, 2018

DENVER  – It would be tempting to look at Jon Gray’s seven innings of dominance against the Philadelphia Phillies and dismiss it as a good game against a team that is well out of contention behind an offense that took all the pressure off of him by scoring 10 runs.

And while there is some validity to such thinking, none of that explains the uptick in Gray’s fastball velocity or the extra torque he was getting on his slider, a pitch that used to rank among the best in baseball in terms of getting swings and misses.

Pitching coaches and manager Bud Black confirmed to the media before his start—which had been pushed back a few days to allow pitchers in better rhythms to start in Arizona—that Gray spent his extra time working on a faster tempo to his motion.

Or, as Gray put it to BSN Denver, “Pitching more free and easy.”

Specifically, he says, he had never thrown his slider quite the way he did on Monday. “I tried to make it the same tempo as my fastball,” he says. “All my other pitches, too, like my curveball.”

Adding and subtracting velocity on his slider has been a weapon for him in the past but has also led to some bad habits, he says, so now he is going back to the basics and letting it fly every single time.

But he also made a mental adjustment with his go-to put-away pitch.

“I forgot that I couldn’t shy away from throwing it in the zone,” he said, admitting he had become overreliant on trying to get hitters to chase the slider rather than just beating them with a good one. “It’s a good pitch. It may have sucked for a while, but I feel like it’s starting to get that bite back to it. So I had to kinda trust throwing it in a spot where it might get hit and knowing it’s going to get down.”

That combined with a fastball that was sitting on 95 mph rather than 93 mph could be contributed to the simplification of his mechanics or even the extra rest that he got between starts.

Catcher Tony Wolters, though, says there wasn’t too much resting.

“He worked his tail off,” he told us after the win over the Phillies. “He’s a perfectionist. All these guys are. He wants to do whatever he can to help this team win and he did tonight. I’m so proud of him.”

Gray says he could feel a good game coming as he progressed with his work.

“I got into the bullpen and off the mound twice in between those starts,” he says. “And we kinda just let it eat every bullpen. We did tempo bullpens. The catcher was just calling a sign, I just look up and throw it. I’m not going to think about anything mechanical, I’m just going to throw it and it was a success I think.”

It all came together in a clash his club needed, making it—despite the final score— a big game for a pitcher who has begun to develop a reputation for struggling in those situations.

But Gray is already looking toward the future, where the games only get bigger.

“I could feel I was throwing stronger,” he said. “But it was only like one out of every three that I felt I was throwing harder. And I kinda felt that way last night too. But that’s what I’m excited about. I get another week to progress that a little bit and see if I can make it where it feels good 90 percent of the time. That’s what I’m shooting for.”

Now would be the absolute time for the Colorado Rockies to get the absolute best of Jon Gray.

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