Davey Martinez noticed something off with Josiah Gray’s mechanics as the 23-year-old tried to get through a second consecutive rough outing on the mound last week. Gray missed to the arm-side a lot, and the Washington Nationals’ skipper said he saw a couple things in the starter’s delivery he thought needed tweaking.
“He had no command, obviously, of his fastball,” Martinez said.
“Everything was arm side today. His mechanics are a little off, so we’ll talk to him the next couple days, but he’s flying open, his arm slot dropped a lot today. So, we’ll go back this next couple days, talk to him, try to get him back up, get his arm back up and let him stay closed a little bit, but everything was arm-side today.”
Gray, after giving up six runs on seven hits in three innings, over which he threw 82 pitches, talked about missing arm-side throughout his time on the mound.
“That’s where most of my misses are going to be, whether I’m on or not,” Gray explained.
“Today was more misses than I guess I’m accustomed to. That’s where my miss pattern is going to be, so it’s something that I’ve just got to fix in the moment and today it just took me a couple more pitches to fix that.”
Going into the right-hander’s eighth start with the Nationals following the deadline deal that brought him to D.C. from LA, Gray’s manager said they addressed what they’d seen from the starter the last time out.
“We talked to him,” Martinez told reporters in his pregame Zoom call from Pittsburgh’s PNC Park. “He had a good bullpen session, we put him on a slow-mo camera, and broke it down for him so he could see, and he threw the ball well in the bullpen, so hopefully that carries over to today.”
Gray did throw 82 pitches in three innings in the previous outing before last night’s against the Pirates, but Martinez said he didn’t think the issues with his mechanics were a result of fatigue.
“We just got to get him consistent with his mechanics,” the fourth-year skipper said.
“When his mechanics are on, he throws — his fastball is very live, he throws the ball down in the zone, and it stays in the zone, and actually has a little bit of carry late, that last two or three feet, so that’s what we want to get him back to. Obviously he threw 97 MPH the other day, but like I said, he was flying open, that’s why you saw arm-side misses, but we need to get him in the zone, and his breaking ball is actually better now that he’s actually, his head, his whole — everything, his front foot, everything is going straight to home plate, he threw some really nice breaking balls for strikes in the bullpen so we want to see that carry over to the game today.”
Gray walked the bases loaded in the third inning tonight, and gave up a two-run single that put the Pirates up 2-0, but his teammates picked him up with three in the fourth and two in the fifth, 5-2, before the right-hander gave up his 12th and 13th home runs in 40 IP with the Nationals, a two-run shot by Bryan Reynolds, which followed his 6th walk of the game, and then a two-out solo shot by Ben Gamel that tied things up at 5-5 in what ended up being a 10-7 loss to the Bucs.
Josiah Gray’s Line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 4 Ks, 2 HRs, 100 P, 54 S, 4/2 GO/FO.
“He was a little bit better, but he’s still opening up,” Martinez said after the game. “So, we’ll continue to work on it with him.”
“A few times he was able to stay closed off, and then throw strikes, pound the strike zone,” the manager said.
“A lot of times he just [flew] open, you saw the arm-side misses, the breaking ball misses.
“We got to get him consistent with his mechanics, and when he does that he’s going to be good.
“As you can see, when he throws strikes, he don’t give up — the home runs he gave up were behind in the count, but other than that, he gave up three hits, but the walks are what’s going to get you, it’s going to get you every time.”
“Just thinking too much out there on the mound,” Gray said in assessing his own outing. “I think a lot of the walks, those at bats started 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 sometimes, so just getting behind early, having to play catch-up in those at bats. Obviously, you have to be a little finer when you’re behind in counts, and I got way too behind today.
“I think I threw 55% strikes, something like that, incredibly bad. So just working behind and trying to play catch-up and today definitely wasn’t that day, was that day.”
“I was really happy with the way my first two innings went,” Gray added. “You know I was locating the fastball where I wanted, the curveball as well, so I was really looking forward to going a little bit longer in this game, but the third, things just sped up on me, and I didn’t take the time to slow it down, and you know get my feet under me, so those things are going to happen, but the first two innings I felt like I was locked in and I was where I felt I needed to be, but in the end, it’s not about two innings, it’s about 6-7 or however many, five today.
“So, you know, it’s something to continue to work on, but I think there’s some steps in the right direction, some things I can take from today.”
As Gray explained it, things got away from him and he was thinking too much about the mechanical issues.
“I think that’s just something that tonight it sped up on me, and I was like, ‘Man, how do I stop this? How do I stop this?’ and then thinking about, ‘Where’s my arm here? Where’s my body here?’ instead of going out and just throwing the ball in the strike zone. So that’s kind of what tonight was, and it’s going to be something I fix by just getting back to the basics and being completely confident in my abilities and what I can do, because — I’ve done it before, my first five starts, I showed I can do it at this level, so it’s not about trying to find it, I know it’s in there, it’s just going through a little rut right now and just trying to get back to playing baseball and throwing the ball like I can.”
“It’s going to be a learning process where we can get him consistently doing the right thing over and over again each and every pitch,” Martinez said, “but hey, he’s a bright kid, he wants to learn, he’s open to learn, he’s open for suggestions, so we’re going to keep working with him. Sky’s the limit for Josiah, it really is, and I’m proud of the way he comes out every day and does his business, does his work, does his routine. And he’s going to get it. He’s going to get it. And like I said, he’s part of our future and he’s going to help us win a lot of games.”