Talking before Josiah Gray struggled in a second consecutive outing, Washington Nationals’ manager Davey Martinez explained to reporters on his daily pregame Zoom call how he will try to find positives to take out of even the rough outings for his starters or games for any of his players.
“I always tell them, ‘Focus on the things you did right,’” Martinez explained, “‘don’t focus so much on your mistakes.’
“Every time he pitches,” Martinez added about Gray in particular, “... we always talk about, I said, ‘Tell me something positive that happened today and he’ll run off a lot of different things that he felt he’d done right, and I’ll say, ‘Let’s build off of that and we’ll go from there.’”
Gray, 23, gave up three earned runs or fewer in each of his first five starts after coming over as one of four prospects acquired in the trade which sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner out to Los Angeles, but the former Dodger gave up seven hits, three walks, and six earned runs in four innings in his sixth outing, a loss to the Phillies, and followed up on that by giving up another seven hits and six runs in just three innings against the Mets on Sunday in D.C.
So, were there any positives to take away from the rough and relatively brief outing against the Nationals’ NL East rivals?
“No,” Gray answered quickly. “I honestly don’t think there was anything positive today. From pitch one to pitch — I don’t know how many pitches I had today — I was battling command, I was battling execution, a lot of hard-hit balls. Honestly, I’ll just take nothing positive from this, and go the next few days and try to look for some positives and just continue to positive talk, and wherever my next start is, going into that with a good mindset and go out there and hopefully get us a win.”
Gray threw 82 pitches in his three innings on the mound, 38 of them in the first, when New York’s hitters jumped all over him, with the first five reaching base and four runs scoring to put the Nationals in a hole before they came up to bat for the first time.
Gray’s teammates picked him up with three runs in the bottom of the inning, but he gave up a one-out home run in the second, and a leadoff home run in the third, and he was done for the day once he got through the third inning, with the Nats down 5-3 in what was a 12-6 loss in the end.
“Just not executing early in counts,” Gray said when asked to assess his own outing, “a lot of 1-0, 2-1, 2-0 counts, not putting myself in a good position to go get those hitters out.
“Falling behind. Those are great hitters over there, so they’re going to capitalize every time they’re in hitter’s counts, and just not capitalizing and not going right after them.”
”We were just kind of missing early,” catcher Riley Adams said after working with Gray in the start.
“He was leaving a few things behind and especially with some of the breaking stuff early, they weren’t as competitive of misses. And he left some mistakes up and they capitalized on that.
“I thought towards the end he was definitely getting back on track, but obviously the pitch count was just way up and it was tough, but yeah, I think early on it was just misses that he was leaving a little bit arm-side and they were capitalizing on them.”
“Yeah, so that’s where most of my misses are going to be,” Gray said when asked about his arm-side location, “whether I’m on or not.
“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. And kind of got myself in a hole, but it’s not something [I’m] unaware of, I guess you could say, it’s something that I go back to the drawing board, and make sure I’m on line and doing everything I can to get that ball to the plate and doing what I got to do.”
His manager was equally blunt in assessing Gray’s outing.
“He had no command, obviously, of his fastball,” Martinez said, noting that he’d noticed the right-hander had mechanics changed some.
“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.”
It’s all part of the process for a young pitcher in the majors, as Gray, his catcher, and his manager all said, and Martinez and Adams both said the right-hander handles it all well.
“I know very well that tomorrow when he comes back in he’s going to be ready to work and figure some stuff out,” Adams said. “He’s already been working with [Pitching Coach Jim] Hickey after his last start too, and trying to work on a few mechanical adjustments and little things like that to get back to where he was earlier, but yeah, I have all the confidence in him. He’s a hard-working guy, and I know his next start he’ll be ready to rock-n-roll, and I’m excited for his next outing.”
“I’m more concerned about this start,” Martinez said when asked about Gray struggling in back-to-back starts.
“I’m not worried about the last two, just today. So we’ll talk to him about that, and I’m going to have to say again it’s part of the process and we’ll get him back and we’ll get him squared away and hopefully his next outing he’ll be a lot better.”
“He’s been great, and he understands, and I specifically told him that he’s going to learn a lot about himself pitching up here every give days,” Martinez added. “And there’s going to be some growing pains, and we just got to get through them, and I reiterated, ‘You’re going to be really good, you really are, you just got to stay with it. And we’re going to get you to where you’re constantly consistent every five days, and you’re going to take off.’ So this is just part of the process, he understands that and he’s going to work these next few days to get it right and he’ll be back out there again in his next start.”
Gray too said he wasn’t too concerned about having two rough outings.
“I wouldn’t say — there’s concern at all, it’s a part of the process,” he said. “There are guys making $300M that go out and have bad starts, so I’m not going to worry about it at all, I’m going to go out there, go back to the drawing board, fix some things and work on some things, but I’m going to go out there in another five days and give it my all and do what I got to do. So, not going to be worried about it all, just go out there, get back to the basics, go out there and execute pitches, that’s what it comes down to and go out there and put the team in a good position to win a ballgame.”