“You can put my season with the Nats into bunches,” Josiah Gray said of the twelve outings he got in for the Washington Nationals following this past July 30th’s trade from Los Angeles to D.C.
Gray, 23, came to the nation’s capital as one of four prospects the club received in the deal that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers, and he joined the rotation just days afterwards after debuting with LA in the leadup to the trade deadline.
In his 12 starts with the Nationals, the right-hander had mixed results, starting and finishing strong with a rough stretch in-between that tested him early in his big league career.
“The first five were great,” Gray said of his initial outings, in which he put up a 2.89 ERA, a 5.78 FIP, and a .223/.286/.485 line against in 28 IP.
Josiah Gray, Filthy 85mph Back Foot Breaking Ball...and Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/tP9jarBDCZ— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 23, 2021
“The four after that were not great,” he added of the stretch in which he put up an 11.42 ERA, with an 8.36 FIP, and .294/.405/.647 line against in 17 1⁄3 IP, “... and then the last three were awesome,” he continued after he wrapped up the season with a three-outing run in which he had a 3.12 ERA, a 2.94 FIP, and a .203/.282/.328 line against in 17 1⁄3 IP.
“So obviously it’s about closing the gap on the middle starts,” Gray said.
General Manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo, who acquired the righty, agreed with the starter’s assessment of his time in the Nationals’ rotation.
“I like the way he attacks the strike zone,” Rizzo said at the end of the regular season.
“He’s kind of made an adjustment as far as his early starts, and then he struggled for several starts, and he kind of got back to what made him the prospect that he was.”
Gray said getting the opportunity to work through those tough outings and finish strong in the end was important.
“It definitely makes a difference,” he told reporters.
Josiah Gray, Nasty 85mph Slider. pic.twitter.com/f3sl0oBhal— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 2, 2021
“Obviously having the four tough ones is something that I’m really going to think hard about in the offseason, be like, ‘Man, my short stint with the Nats this year could have been a lot different if I managed to give up a few less runs, or walked a few less people, something like that, so yeah, it’s going to eat at me a little bit, but honestly, after that start in Pittsburgh [on September 11th], I just kind of hit a point where I was like, ‘Man, I’m going out there with not the right confidence that I’ve always had.’ And just restoring that, restoring the mental strength, was really, really important for me to sort of just build myself back up to where I’m here, I’m going to be the big man on that mound, I’m going to go and get guys out.”
Will Gray end up being one of the “elite starting pitchers in the game” as Rizzo projected after the trade deadline deal with the Dodgers?